The ice-skating season at the Burton Street rinks may be ending in the coming weeks. While the season started considerably early three months ago, unpredictable weather patterns and a dwindling budget have subsequently forced coordinators to set a tentative closing date for Feb. 27.
Funds that keep the rinks open each year are drawn from the Joint Recreation Program. The budget is shared between the village and town of Cazenovia, the town of Nelson and the town of Fenner. The four municipalities contribute finances according to the percentage of residents that use the skating rinks.
This year, the village of Cazenovia drew a limited amount of supplemental funds from another line in their budget in order to prolong the skating season. Board members encouraged the three other entities to do the same, while understanding that municipal budgets are tight for unanticipated expenses.
Cazenovia Village Trustee and Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, Amy Mann was sad to see the season come to an end, but pleased with record number of participants who enjoyed the rinks this year.
“We have had many happy customers this winter, the downside is that it has depleted the allocated funds,” Mann said. “I thank everyone who came and enjoyed the ice this winter, the village DPW, the attendant staff for creating a safe and fun environment and the other municipalities who were able to kick in some extra funds at a tough time.”
Before the land on Burton Street became rinks in the early 1950s, local skaters looked to a flooded Lakeland Park for their fun. Since the ice-skating rinks’ construction, they have been host to thousands of fun-seekers and the birthplace of the Cazenovia Youth Hockey Association.
The facilities include an enclosed hockey rink, complete with an asphalt base and surrounding boards, a cement shelter, as well as a natural rink, flooded by the Department of Public Works workers; all are overseen by an attendant seven days a week.
When R. James Hubbard gifted the parcel of land to the village with ideas of a public skating-rink in mind, it was up to a few good men who were willing to work hard and volunteer their time. Robert H. Kelly stepped up to the challenge, in which he took great pride in completing.
From Kelly’s (former) home at 8 Burton St., he would often visit the rink at midnight in sub-zero temperatures to ensure a fresh sheet of ice would be available to skaters the following day. It was Kelly’s determination and commitment that helped the facility to grow, both as a recreational center for children, and a training ground for future Cazenovia athletes.
In the first years of operation, park benches were sprinkled around the rink for skaters and spectators. In 1956 a wooden frame warming hut, complete with a coal stove, was erected. The shack was eventually replaced by the cement shelter that inhabits the space between rinks today. Construction of the new structure was commissioned by the Rotary Club and built in 1963.
Two years before, Kelly had started the youth hockey program alongside Roger Scaife and William Scoones in 1961. Their modest beginnings eventually gave way to three age divisions and eventually the sport’s inclusion as a high school program. Numerous players improved their skill set and worked their way up the ranks, thanks to Kelly. One in particular, Mark Costello, would eventually go on to coach the high school hockey team for a number of years.
Kelly was a well-known member of Cazenovia. His service to the youth hockey program and involvement in various village organizations earned him many commendations. Kelly received the Distinguished Service Award from the Cazenovia Jaycees in 1968, as well as the Jenkins Memorial Award from the PTA in 1969.
After his passing, the Burton Street facilities were dedicated to Robert H. Kelly in 2004. A humble monument was installed between the cement shelter and the hockey rink. Kelly was laid to rest nearby at Evergreen Cemetery, within the hills overlooking the skating rinks he helped establish.
When the rinks were still simply frozen ice slicks buried under snow, Kelly would hire local boys interested in earning .25 cents an hour, to clear off the space. One of those young men was Bob Stintson, who would grow up to marry one of Kelly’s daughters, Bobbie. They now live a few minutes away from where they first met on Burton Street, and both still follows Cazenovia Hockey closely.
“I am so just proud, and I know my father and my family would be so proud to see how well the hockey team is doing this year,” Bobbie said. “I’m sure he’s watching them and saying, ‘Go boys!'”
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