Standing on a trafficked corner on Kingsbridge since 1912, the Kingsbridge Armory building used to look like a majestic European Castle with red brick walls and vaulted ceilings. Today, the long-abandoned structure resembles more a rundown and crumbling warehouse. But what if this decrepit former armory were to turn into a state of the art sports facility, hosting ice-skating performances and hockey games?
That might just happen. City officials have unveiled plans to turn the abandoned building into the biggest indoor ice facility in the world.
The Kingsbridge Armory is a 575,000 square-foot brick former military training center in the west Bronx, which has been vacant since 1996 and occupies a full city block. After years of speculations about its destiny, the city has recently announced the building will be renovated into a multi-ring ice sports complex.
Once the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) is completed, it will create jobs and boost the borough’s economy, officials promise.
The center is expected to create 267 permanent jobs and 890 temporary construction jobs, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
The center will feature nine year-round indoor ice rinks, including a 5,000-seat ring for major skating and hockey events. According to the NYCEDC, the project will cost $275 million and construction will start in late 2014. The first full year of operation is expected to be 2018.
Anabel Camilo, a 21 year-old Kingsbridge resident who said she likes going out with her boyfriend, is looking forward to the opening. “You have to go downtown, since there is not a good place in the Bronx to visit,” Camilo said. “The armory project is a great idea.”
But Camilo was pessimistic about the project’s timeline. “They have mentioned a lot of projects that never get completed,” Camilo said.
“I think is because Bloomberg did not agree with the city counselor and community groups from the area,” Camilo said, when asked why she thought other projects were never completed. “But I heard Ruben Diaz Jr. agreed with him about this project.”
According to the Norwood News, Mayor Bloomberg has formed a partnership with the Bronx Community Board 7, the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance -a syndicate of community members,- and the borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. This partnership aims to overcome previous disagreements about different proposals.
“This plan is proof that working together we can put aside our differences and do what’s best for the city,” Bloomberg said in a statement released by the NYCED.
The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), the partners of KNIC and other community groups signed an agreement about the project.
On its website, the NWBCCC said that it is “proud that after 17 years of fighting for responsible development of the Kingsbridge Armory, the vision of neighborhood residents will be realized in this development project.”
The coalition aims to help community groups and local residents gain wealth from the Armory’s future revenues.
Felix Morel, a Kingsbridge resident and father of three, said he is happy about the proposal. “I’m unemployed right now, it has been difficult for me to find a job,” Morel said in Spanish. “ This project will create jobs and help people like me.” According to the NWBCCC, 51 percent of the Armory project’s jobs will go to Bronx residents.
“I like the jobs opportunity, but I also like the ice rings,” Morel said in Spanish, when asked if he just likes the idea of the jobs or if he supports the project itself. “Young people will be able to go to a safe place and have fun.”
“I’m a sport lover, I would love to see my kids playing in the ice rings,” he added.
American athletes have backed this project, including former New York Rangers star Mark Messier and figure skating Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes.
“The fact these athletes are supporting this project is just great, a lot of teenagers will get inspire by them,” said Morel.
But some Bronx residents expressed disappointment over the Armory transformation.
Mabel Lopez, a 22 years-old Kingsbridge resident, wondered whether people would care for hockey and ice-skating. “I’m not sure if that is the best project,” she said, “not everybody likes ice-skating and hockey.” But she is willing to give it a try.
“Now let’s wait and see if it gets completed,” she said.