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NORTH TONAWANDA – The old, unused bocce court at Pinewoods Park on Christiana Street got Rich Andres thinking it would make a good place for people to ice skate.

Last week, it started making the move from think to rink.

City workers began setting it up by extending a water line, so that when the weather gets cold enough, the bocce basin can be filled with water and freeze.

Eventually, Andres, the Common Council president, would like to have benches.

“Hopefully this develops over time,” he said. “I think it’s going to be the best ice rink in the city. We’ll just see if we get any cold weather.”

The Pinewoods’ rink will replace the one at Felton Field. That rink had been behind the police station, but its liner had worn out. The expense of a new one, about $3,000, was too much for the city.

The bocce court, with its berm, Andres realized, could hold water for ice without a liner. And, the Christiana Street park, near the Twin Cities Memorial Highway, is a more visible place and may attract more skaters.

When and if a freeze comes, he plans to give the new rink a try even though, he said, “I can’t stand up too well on skates.” More importantly, he said, “I always thought it was a shame to have a beautiful city park go unutilized for a few months out of the year.”

Alexandra, 9, the daughter of City Clerk Treasurer Scott Kiedrowski, told her father she was excited by the idea of the new rink and learning to skate with friends.

“She’s just starting to get into ice hockey,” he said. “It is really for the kids to get off the computer and get away from the TV.”

For Matt Jones, 21, a new, free outdoor rink would encourage him to go out and teach kids to skate. As a regular who plays hockey once a week at the Hyde Park rink in Niagara Falls, he’s noticed there aren’t that many places to skate outside anymore.

The flooded field on Payne Avenue where he learned to skate with his friends is now a Walgreens. “Unless they make their own rink in their backyard,” he said, “there’s no place to go out and just enjoy being outside and having fun with your friends and family.”

The warm winter last year added to the problem. When he went to check out Ives Pond in the City of Tonawanda, he couldn’t find any ice solid enough to skate on.

If there’s ice on the new Christiana Street rink, he said, “I would definitely go there all the time and check it out and maybe teach some of the younger kids to skate the way I was taught.”

Even though December has been mild so far, Jones is optimistic about the winter ahead.

“I just hope maybe in January we’ll have a deep freeze,” he said. “I’d really like to get back out there and skate around on outdoor ice again.”

email: mkearns@buffnews.com