WEST ORANGE, NJ — A $2.8-million project to modernize Rink 1 in Essex County Codey Arena in West Orange is officially underway and is the first major renovation to the rink since the facility opened in 1958.

A new refrigeration system will enable the arena to operate more efficiently and will provide a better ice skating surface, according to Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., who is pictured above at the rink with

“We upgraded the refrigeration system in Rink 2 and added a 10,000-square-foot addition to enhance accommodations to transform Codey Arena into a modern venue for ice skating, hockey and a multitude of non-ice events,” said DiVincenzo. “Replacing the refrigeration system in Rink 1 is the last major improvement that is needed, and will enable us to operate more efficiently and provide our skaters with first-class conditions in which to skate.”

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As this will be a major inconvenience to the schools, recreations programs and individuals that utilize the arena, DiVincenzo said the county appreciates their understanding and patience during construction.”

The existing refrigeration system was installed when the arena opened 59 years ago and is no longer operating at optimum capacity. In order to replace the original refrigeration system, the dasher boards and glass, and concrete floor under the ice surface were removed.

After the refrigeration system is completed, new concrete flooring, rubber matting, dasher boards and glass will be installed. In addition, a new video board will be installed. A similar project to upgrade the refrigeration system in Rink 2, which originally opened in 1983, was completed in 2012.

“My daughter skated here when she was young so it’s exciting to see all the improvements being done,” said Essex County Freeholder Patricia Sebold. “I want to thank Joe DiVincenzo for bringing everything up to date.”

According to DiVincenzo, news of the modernization project was well received by the many clubs and organizations that utilize the arena.

“Seeing the arena entrance boarded up is like waiting for an artist to unveil his masterpiece,” said retired NJ Devils player Grant Marshall, who teaches skating classes at Codey Arena. “The excitement to see the upgraded facility is growing. This was the first building I came to when I was traded to the Devils and it’s always been such a welcoming place.”

Olympic Champion JoJo Starbuck, who teaches adult skating classes at Codey Arena said the improvements being made “underscore the importance of a facility like this for young skaters and adult skaters.” She also said the improvements make it possible for future dreams to be made, for an opportunity for exercise and better health, and for entertainment.

“The Essex County Skating Club is celebrating its 65th anniversary and all of those years have been in this arena,” said club president Lynn Gordon. “We are proud that our home is being renovated because it enhances the facilities for our skaters and it makes sure our home continues to be state-of-the-art.”

NJ Daredevils head coach Steve Ritter said that without the county, the New Jersey Daredevils would not exist and that the team is excited about the improvements to the rink because it will “have a brand new platform to showcase [its] athletes.”

“I grew up skating here and it’s amazing to see the transformation. We are looking forward to the upgraded rink,” said Heidi Vanderhoof of the Essex Special Skaters Program.

Garden State Speedskating Club President Tony Lui said the club was formed three years ago, capitalizing on interest from the Winter Olympics.

“We are now the largest speedskating club on the East Coast and it is because of Codey Arena and the support we receive from Essex County,” he said.

“On behalf of the Essex County Athletic Directors, we want to thank Joe DiVincenzo for all the things that are being done throughout the parks system,” said Nutley High School Athletic Director Joseph Piro, who also serves as President of the Essex County Athletic Directors Association. “Our student-athletes are in the parks and they reap the benefits of the improvements. Not many people think about holding a wrestling tournament in an ice rink, but events like that display the versatility of this arena.”

Holding an artist rendering with DiVincenzo above are (in front from left) NJ Daredevils Head Coach Steve Ritter and Manager Andy Piccirillo and (standing from left) Garden State Speedskating Club President Tony Liu, Chief of Staff Phil Alagia, Essex Skating Club President Lynn Gordon, Freeholder Patricia Sebold, Essex County Athletic Directors Association President and Nutley Athletic Director Joseph Piro, former Olympian JoJo Starbuck, Codey Arena Manager Steve Ruggiero, retired NJ Devils player Grant Marshall and the NJ Devil. (Photo by Glen Frieson)