WESTFIELD, NJ — A popular seasonal ice rink is anticipated to return to a public park for the next two winter seasons following the Town Council’s 6 to 3 approval of a partnership with the rink’s private owner.

The council's split vote Tuesday night came after a presentation on the plans for the Rink at Gumbert Park from Ken Anderson, the owner of Union Sports Arena during which he detailed a proposal to help mitigate neighborhood impacts and add programming.

“We really think that the rink exceeded expectations,” said Anderson, reporting on the first season. “But there are things that we can do to improve.”

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He discussed plans to install low-level café style lighting at the rink and reduce the sounds of both hockey play and the upkeep of the rink itself.

“We’ve had a new muffler installed on the Zamboni,” Anderson said. “We’ll be able to bring the level of the sound down.”

Despite concerns in neighboring Garwood, the majority of Westfield residents to discuss the rink publicly have favored its return, especially members of Westfield’s burgeoning hockey community.

“Those that have used the rink are very excited,” said Westfield Hockey Club board member John McDevitt shortly after Tuesday’s meeting. “We understand there are impacts to some neighbors. We are working as best we can with the management company and the town to mitigate that.”

Matt Maranz, a resident of Salter Place, who sat on a committee charged with evaluating the rink’s first season, said the council’s decision to approve the rink for the next two seasons – instead of just one – was not what he had anticipated.

“Frankly, two years came as a total surprise,” Maranz said. “There was no advance notice. We heard about it for the first time tonight. That’s very, very different than anything that anyone has described or explained so far.”

Mayor Shelley Brindle led the majority-vote in favor of the rink. Council members Linda Habgood, Dawn Mackey, Frank Arena, David Contract and Mark LoGrippo also voted in favor of the rink’s return.

“I don’t want this to be anywhere but in Westfield,” Brindle said. “This belongs here.”

Council members Michael Dardia, JoAnn Neylan and Doug Stokes voted against the two-season return of the rink. Dardia, who sits on the recreation commission, held up a thick stack of papers he said pertained to his research on the rink.

“The majority will benefit argument is inherently flawed,” Dardia said. “To suggest that some suffer as the majority will benefit is not in the spirit of Westfield.”

He said families with children who play hockey knew that the sport requires travel for practices when their children joined up. “These kids are super passionate about this sport they are going to go anywhere to play,” Dardia added.

Residents had noted the benefit of reduced travel time for local athletes, community events at the rink but also the adverse neighborhood impacts that were seen in its first season.

Beth Hornstein, of Plymouth Road, said the nearby rink has allowed the Westfield girls ice hockey program to grow.

“Westfield is the only one of a handful of public schools in New Jersey to field a girls ice hockey team, making us a leader,” Hornstein said.

Salter Place resident Jeff Pate was among neighbors to discuss what he fears could be two winters of discontent ahead for him.

“We don’t want any more lights,” Pate said. “We don’t want any more signage on the rink. It’s already popular enough.”

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh

Watch the Town Council discussion here:

OPINION: Letter: 15 Recommendations on the Return of the Westfield Rink
PREVIOUSLY: Westfield Recreation Says Gumbert Park Again for a Winter Ice Rink 
CHIEF: Westfield Chief Shares Praise for Department After Tragedy Averted