It may be time for Bronxites to start lacing up their skates as the world’s largest ice sports complex could finally be making its way to the borough.
After four years of legal battles, the city finally has agreed to hand over the lease to the Kingsbridge Armory to developers Mark Messier and Ken Parker last week after a push from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The armory, which was built in 1910 to hold military artillery — then later used as a community space — has been vacant for the past two decades.
“I think this will be a tremendous boom to Kingsbridge Road, which could certainly use a shot in the arm,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who grew up just blocks away from the site, said.
Handing over of the lease puts into motion the construction of a $350 million project in the massive 750,000-square-foot space. The Kingsbridge National Ice Complex is planned for nine ice rinks and an arena.
KNIC was originally approved by the Bloomberg administration in 2013. The city, however, refused to give up the lease to the property until developers raised $158 million to finance the first wave of construction. At one point KNIC even accused the city of breaching the contract by deliberately delaying production by holding the lease in escrow.
Now with the lease in hand, developers are hoping to break ground on the project by the end of 2017. An exact timeline, though, is still unclear. KNIC is still waiting for the state’s economic development branch to authorize a $108 million loan.
Dillon Rodney has been a member of the neighborhood for more than 15 years, and works in the National Guard building attached to the empty armory. He doesn’t mind what the armory becomes just so long as it’s being used.
“It’s been sitting here, so I mean if they have a plan to do something with it without it going to waste, I think it’s great,” Rodney said. “It has its good and it has its bad.”
The “bad” may include issues of gentrification and traffic control that many residents fear will worsen when the dominating complex finally makes its debut.
But Dinowitz believes KNIC has the potential to positively transform the area just south of Marble Hill by providing new jobs and attracting new patrons to local businesses.
In an agreement with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy coalition, KNIC already has promised to hire Bronxites and create more opportunities for businesses owned by minorities and women.
KNIC also is conveniently located near several schools in the area, including P.S. 86, P.S. 246, Walton High School and Lehman College. KNIC has agreed to give free ice time to Title I schools.
“Giving kids in the Bronx the opportunity to participate in the type of activities that will take place in the KNIC is an incredible thing to do,” Dinowitz said. “I think this will be a destination that people within the Bronx and beyond the Bronx are going to want to come to.”