BROOKLINE — Recreation Director Leigh Jackson and Parks and Open Space Director Alexandra Vecchio announce that the Town of Brookline’s Jack Kirrane Ice Rink has closed for the season as a result of operational issues, including weather challenges, partial failure of the temporary refrigeration units and ongoing deterioration of the aging infrastructure.
The rink is now closed for the season after sustained impacts to the ice skating surface caused by sun, warm temperatures and — in particular – rain throughout the month of February. Given these conditions, and intermittent failures of the temporary compressors, the refrigeration system was unable to provide a consistent and safe ice skating surface for the community.
The town’s outdoor ice rink is a beloved facility that has reached the end of its useful life. It has been in operation for 64 years and in that time has undergone numerous repairs, updates and replacements that have kept it operational and able to welcome approximately 15,000 individual visits each winter. However, the aging facility has been impacted by numerous escalating system failures in recent years, including failures of the refrigeration system in 2019 and 2020. This led to the permanent decommissioning of the chiller and the addition of the temporary refrigeration units leased by the Town to allow the rink to operate for the 2020- 21 and 2021- 22 seasons.
“A visit to the Jack Kirrane Ice Rink is a beloved family tradition spanning multiple generations, but the condition of the old rink leaves it in a fragile state, and recent weather conditions have made it infeasible to keep the season going,” said Jackson. “It is our hope that a more permanent solution will be developed in the coming winters that will keep ice skating in Brookline alive for decades to come.”
Following the ice rink’s permanent system failure and considering its age, the Park and Recreation Commission determined that any future operation of the rink would require a significant investment in capital dollars.
The temporary refrigeration units, put in place to allow the rink to open for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, were considered a short term measure needed to operate the outdoor facility, considered especially important during the pandemic, but it came at a cost of more than $150,000 each year to rent and operate.
Given the ongoing challenges and expensive investment to date, the Park and Recreation Commission will discuss the future of the rink at their March 8, 2022 meeting and determine if it is in the best interest of the community to reopen the rink for the 2022- 23 season.
The Park and Recreation Commissioners have been discussing options to keep this beloved tradition open to the public. In June 2020, the Commission created an Ice Rink Task Force to evaluate the short- and long-term futures of the ice skating rink. Through five public forums and nine public working groups, the Ice Rink Task Force oversaw the development of a preliminary feasibility study to evaluate future options for a town recreational skating facility in Brookline. The preliminary feasibility study, led by a multi-disciplinary consultant team of ice skating facility architects, landscape architects, traffic and parking engineers, and planners honed in on the home of the current rink, Larz Anderson Park, as the most suitable location for a new ice skating rink and identified potential design options that include open-air, enclosed and covered rinks.
While work remains to further the planning and design of a new ice skating rink in Brookline, great effort was made to have an open and responsive public process and to set a course, with viable options, for a new ice skating facility that will provide the greatest benefit to the community.