Rink Renovations To Offer New Spin On Skating

Brothers Aharon and Yitzchch Rosenberg wait for others to join them in a game of roller hockey. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  HOWELL – Township officials have already invoked on sorely needed repairs to ensure the first of two roller rinks at Deerwood Park no longer falls through the cracks. The second rink may ultimately put a different “spin” on alternative recreational offerings in the Ramtown section of the community.

  “Both outdoor street hockey/inline skating rinks were extensively used in years past, but were underutilized lately,” said Township Business Administrator Joe Clark. “We had a local resident reach out regarding use of the rink for practice for the roller derby team he coaches.”

  Nick A. Ficorelli II serves as the vice president of the Jersey Junior Roller Derby Thrashers and said he contacted Clark after the Jackson Skating Center announced their plans to close their doors. New owners decided to shut down the facility until they completed renovations.

  The Thrashers are a league of skaters that range in age from 8-17 and desperately needed a local venue for practice sessions. This weekend, the team has a bout in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

  “I’ve lived in Howell for more than 15 years,” said Ficorelli. “I remembered there were two hockey rinks in Deerwood Park, which is also known as the ‘Purple Park.’”

  Ficorelli said he checked out both rinks and discovered one had a few potholes and cracks. The second rink had a split right down the middle. Undoubtedly, uneven pavements and holes in the surface represented potential safety hazards for even the most skilled skaters.

  The good news was that although the rinks weren’t in great condition, Ficorelli didn’t see them as awful. Instead, he found they had some potential and contacted township authorities for help.

  “Joe (Clark) thanked me for bringing up the issue and said the town had already talked about revitalizing one of the rinks,” Ficorelli shared. “They wanted to get it in shape for use by roller derby teams, adult or junior roller hockey teams, or even family skate nights.”

  Clark acknowledged his conversation with Ficorelli and said municipal employees examined both rinks and decided to invest in one this year to bring it up to usable condition. The business administrator credited the dialogue with the resident for “dovetailing perfectly” with plans for park improvements.

Photo by Stephanie Faughnan

  “We are still trying to determine what to do with the second rink,” said Clark. “We have several options ranging from a repair of the rink to decommissioning it and using it for basketball courts.”

  Director of Public Works Paul Novello directed the repairs to the first rink, noting that the window of opportunity was closing due to weather constraints. Novello immediately contacted a vendor that the town works with regarding the materials, processes, and preparation work needed to repair the rink.

  “I took a couple of pictures and passed them on and discussed what we needed to do on the phone,” Novello said. “The vendor came out to the site and told us how to prepare the rink for the repairs. Our department guys jumped right on it.”

  Meanwhile, the public works director admitted that this particular project brought a smile to his face. He has personal reasons for understanding the value of the municipal asset and what it meant to the community.

  “I was excited when I heard that a roller derby team would be using the rink,” Novello shared. “My ex-wife Carolyn and my daughter, Gina, did junior roller derby.”

  Gina, 19, made it to Junior Roller Derby Association (JRDA) US World Team in 2020. She participated under the “Takedown Diva” moniker. She’s now settled in at Mississippi State University, studying interior design.

Director of Public Works Paul Novello said he was particularly excited about this project because both his ex-wife Carolyn and daughter Gina competed in roller derby. (Photo courtesy Paul Novello)

  According to national statistics, roller rinks across the country have shut down because skating appeared to be a thing of the past. Most recently, the activity has resurged, and even the most casual skaters need a safer place than sidewalks or parking lots to hit the pavement.

  Access to the skating rink under repair was locked up last weekend. That left a family of brothers planning to play roller hockey at the second rink.

  “We only get to play every six months or so,” said Aharon Rosenberg, 19. “There’s five of us, and we love that there’s a place to play.”