Local

Town, county rolling along on improving skate park

David Maurer, 14, skates past a frequently patched but still-growing crack in the surface of the Bristol Sports Arena on Tuesday while practicing with Island Recreation Association’s roller hockey league. Maurer said the uneven rink surface makes it difficult for players to control the puck.
David Maurer, 14, skates past a frequently patched but still-growing crack in the surface of the Bristol Sports Arena on Tuesday while practicing with Island Recreation Association’s roller hockey league. Maurer said the uneven rink surface makes it difficult for players to control the puck. Jay Karr/The Island Packet

After years of patchwork repairs, more lasting improvements are planned for the Bristol Sports Arena on Hilton Head Island.

The town and Beaufort County are working on cost estimates to refurbish a hockey rink and a skate park at the south-island park and possibly swap their locations.

Bristol Sports Arena is at Arrow Road and Helmsman Way. It is owned by the town but maintained by Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services.

Both have tried for years to manage cracking in the hockey rink's concrete slab, but the solutions have been imperfect, said Scott Liggett, town engineer.

"We've done what we can with grouting and patching, (but) the cracks reappear," he said.

The skate park rests on a similar slab but isn't prone to cracks because it was cured better when it was built, Liggett said. As a result, officials are considering moving the hockey rink to the skate park site and vice versa.

"One of the things we are contemplating is to take the cracks out of play by placing the skate park obstacles over the cracks," Liggett said. "Like putting a couch over a stain on your carpet."

Another option is demolishing and replacing the rink's concrete slab, which would be costlier. An estimate was not available. Liggett said it is more likely the town pursue a mix of partial demolition and replacement.

The hockey rink opened in 1997. The skate park opened in 2000.

The town and county also are considering replacing or resurfacing jumps at the skate park; installing new dasher boards, scoreboard and fencing at the hockey rink; installing new backboards and rims on a basketball court there; and lighting the skate park.

The projects will cost several hundred thousand dollars to be paid for by the town and county, Liggett said.

The Bristol Foundation donated $100,000 to the Town of Hilton Head earlier this summer to pay for improvements to the hockey rink.

"We want the (sports arena) brought back to the way it was," said Rick Bristol, whose family foundation donated much of the money. "We also want to keep it safe."

Cracking has caused an uneven rink surface, causing younger players with small wheels to stumble and making it difficult to pass a puck. The rink, however, is safe and no injuries have resulted from the rink's condition, Liggett said.

Michael Tannuzzi coaches the Island Recreation Association's fall roller hockey league at Bristol Sports Arena for those ages 5 to 16. He poked his stick into a 40-foot-long crack, scraping away crumbling pieces of concrete to reveal tiny holes. A similar crack has spread on the opposite side of the rink.

"This crack does not go away. It was just repaired four to five months ago," Tannuzzi said, pointing to the mix of concrete, putty and epoxy that has been layered on top of the crack over the years. "You could twist an ankle or end up with a leg injury if the holes and cracks get big enough."

Gaps between the playing surface and the rink's dasher boards have also caused problems. When players go after a puck, their sticks get caught in the gaps and jam them in the stomach, Tannuzzi said.

Alan Perry is an Island Recreation Association board member and has two sons who play roller hockey at the rink. The rec association oversees use of the rink.

Perry said it has been frustrating waiting for repairs while the town and county fuss over who is responsible.

"Because of that, the parks have fallen down in quality. Had we had that ironed out earlier, maybe we'd have more kids out here," Perry said.

The town and county are trying to decide how to better coordinate maintenance and ensure the many groups that use the parks are treated fairly. Relations between the town and county have improved, Liggett said, but some groups have complained about the rink for the past couple years.

Liggett said the town hopes to start repairs early next year, following the end of the winter hockey league.

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