Warwick’s going to build an outdoor rink!

Posted 4/25/24

I’ll confess, I thought it was a crazy idea. Why should the city embark on building a third ice skating rink, when we have two already? And why build an outdoor rink subject to inclement …

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Warwick’s going to build an outdoor rink!


I’ll confess, I thought it was a crazy idea. Why should the city embark on building a third ice skating rink, when we have two already? And why build an outdoor rink subject to inclement weather, and besides what will it be used for when it’s too warm to make ice? There were plenty of additional questions. And why build it behind City Hall where the former annex building has been sitting vacant since a pipe burst during a weekend freeze, sending clouds of steam between two floors and soaking the place? And even if city departments are housed in vacant school buildings, what’s the long range plan to once again consolidate them near City Hall? Shouldn’t that be a priority? How’s that going to happen with a skating rink and insufficient parking for both the rink and the annex? There just isn’t the space.

It was the spring of 2020 and Frank Picozzi had invited me over to sit by his backyard pool he had just opened for the season. He wanted to hear what I had heard since publicly confirming his interest in running for mayor.

There was a lot of skepticism that a candidate who years before served on the school committee, was an independent contractor and didn’t have a pile of money could mount a campaign against incumbent Joseph Solomon, who had the backing of the Democratic Party. What Picozzi did have was a wildcard. He made a name for himself as the man behind the digital Christmas light show that year after year becomes bigger and more animated that the year before. He had thousands of followers on the light show Facebook page, not to mention his personal page. Could they be counted on for votes?

I didn’t see admiration for a digital light show as being transferable to votes. If Frank was seriously thinking about running for mayor, there must be a litany of issues he planned to tackle starting with the condition of city roads, an aging sanitation fleet that on many days was unable to complete trash and recycling collections and a swimming pool that had been closed for months because of aging valves and heating system. To boot, the city was borrowing rescues and firefighting equipment from neighboring communities while its trucks underwent repairs.  There were plenty of problems that needed attention and would require a lot of money to fix. Even if elected, it seemed Frank would have to raise taxes just to patch things up.

I wondered if he had a plan to address such a mess. And would voters buy it?

So, I asked him what would he do if elected. I was caught off guard by his response.

I don’t recall the words exactly, but he asked me if I’d visited the outdoor skating rink in Providence, adding wouldn’t it be wonderful to have one in Apponaug in place to the defunct annex. Sure, I knew the rink but how could he even be thinking of such a capital improvement when so many necessities needed to be addressed. I could imagine the swimming pool advocates yelling for warm water before freezing a puddle in the City Hall parking lot. How would that go over with voters? Such a dream couldn’t get him elected.

But Frank held on to the dream even after getting elected.

The dream didn’t fade with the pandemic either. In fact, Covid brought it into focus with an accompanying gusher of federal grants that suddenly, pretty much, enabled the administration to address all those other problems and a lot more such as fixing the city’s aging sewer and water infrastructure. After winning election, Frank spent more time on addressing many of those issues mentioned earlier, the first being the collection of trash and recyclables. Some federal funding started to flow but the pandemic put a crimp in supply chains across the country. Purchasing sanitation trucks was not as easy as picking up the phone and asking the vendor to send one over, even if they were the preferred low bidder.  The same was true of fire apparatus and parts to get McDermott Pool up and running again. An outdoor skating rink seemed like the furthest concern and fluff in light of everything else.

However, Frank shared his vision with the Congressional delegation. Senator Jack Reed came through with a $5 million earmark grant for Warwick Plaza and the skating rink. Suddenly Frank’s dream was more than a whimsical idea, although he needed more money to do the job. That is coming from American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to the city. More importantly, an outdoor rink and events that could be held at the plaza gained community support. Greenwood Credit Union, surely one of the community’s most generous supporters won the bid for the rink’s naming rights.

Everything was coming together.  

And go figure, confusion over which of the two lowest bids for the project is now going to save the city $500,000. The two lowest bidders agreed to toss their initial bids and rebid the rink when it looked like the whole thing would be tied up in court.  Now, the project looks to be coming in about $2 million less than the $8 million first estimated.

This morning at 11 Frank, Senators Reed, and Whitehouse plus state and city officials and Greenwood CU representatives will break ground for the rink behind City Hall. Who would have thought it could happen?

I didn’t.

side up, rink


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