New Yorkers could soon be strapping on a pair of skates at the Kingsbridge Armory after Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. confirmed Thursday he will back a plan to turn the landmark armory into a skating rink.
If approved, there would be nine ice rinks with a 5,000-seat capacity.
This would make it one of the largest indoor ice sports centers in the world.
Concerts and other sporting events could also be held at the building, which the military used until 1996.
It's been left mostly vacant since.
"We believe the Kingsbridge Armory National Ice Center, to have an ice sports facility here, would be good for the neighborhood, would be good for the Bronx, would be good for the city," Diaz said.
"I think it's a good idea. I mean honestly I've seen the sketches in the newspaper and how it's supposed to look, and it looks very nice, you know? It's going to bring a lot of attention to the neighborhood," said one Kingsbridge Heights resident.
High-profile investors for the proposed rink include gold medal-winning figure skater Sarah Hughes and New York Rangers Stanley Cup champion Mark Messier, who noted the youth skating initiative associated with the project.
"We're going to provide them free ice time, equipment and instruction. But we will also focus on academic greatness through after-school tutoring and mentoring," Messier said.
The borough president's support came as a surprise to developers of a contending proposal for a mixed-use venue featuring retail, movie theaters, indoor rock climbing and other sports.
"We respect his support for the ice hockey proposal, you know we are frankly surprised and disappointed with it, we think that our project is best for the community," said Mercado Mirabo Project Business Development Director Adam Zucker.
In 2009, the city approved a plan to turn the century-old building into retail space, but the deal fell through.
Diaz himself was opposed to the retail plan, because it did not guarantee workers a so-called "living wage" of at least $10 an hour.
The city is expected to make a decision on the building this fall.