Plans are underway for the 750,000-square-foot Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx to become the world’s largest ice-skating complex, according to its developers. Crain’s New York reported that the development duo of Kevin Parker, former Deutsche Bank executive, and Mark Messier, former center for the New York Rangers, have secured financing for phase one of their $350 million project, which they plan to begin constructing mid-next year. Parker said that Citibank has promised his group, Kingsbridge National Ice Center, a significant loan for construction to be paired with the $35 million already raised through private investment. “Citibank is committed to doing the first phase of the project,” he told Crain’s. “And they’ve indicated a strong desire to finance the second phase. But we’re going one step at a time.” If approved by New York City officials, the first phase of construction would include the build-out of the 5-acre site into nine rinks, athletic facilities, and a 5,000-seat stadium. Construction for phase one would likely total $170 million in overall costs and Parker hopes to raise money for the remainder of the project in order to complete it by 2022. The Kingsbridge National Ice Center has been a six-year dream in the making for Parker and Messier. The city currently owns the armory and hasn’t given the pair a lease, telling the duo that the city would wait until further financing was secured. The new fundraising news presumably means that the city will be ready to greenlight the project. Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged to give the project a $138 million loan to help it find long-term financing after phase one is done. Parker and Messier’s idea for an ice facility beat out other proposals that would have transformed the century-old red brick building into either a film and television complex, a mixed sports center, or a chess center. A highly-contested site, it was designated a New York City landmark in 1974 and was heralded as a leading example of military architecture. The armory originally housed the National Guard and features an 800-seat auditorium and a 180,000-square-foot drill hall. The nine-story structure includes an iconic, curved, sloping metal roof that can be seen from the Major Deegan Expressway and from the surrounding neighborhood near Fordham University.
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The Knightsbridge Armory in the Bronx, owned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has been in limbo for some years now. Back in 2012, developers battled over the space becoming a Latin-infused marketplace or an ice skating rink backed by former Rangers captain Mark Messier and his firm, Kingsbridge National Ice Center. Now, Messier's proposal seems to have gained traction as the NYCEDC has given Messier and co. a month to show it has the $138 million required for the first phase of the project. Originally constructed in 1917, the Armory was built to house a regiment of New York’s National Guard. If Messier's plan is realized, the Armory would be transformed into a 750,000-square-foot ice complex, complete with nine rinks, a 5,000-capacity arena, community center and retail area. Rinks would be used for all forms of ice skating, curling and cater for those with disabilities. In total, the scheme is touted to cost $350 million, however, funding remains to be an issue after former State Senator Dean Skelos was convicted for corruption. Prior to this, Skelos had pledged all the money to come from a fund. Despite the financial issues, the scheme has already been approved by the New York City council. Initially put forward in 2012, the arena would be used to host international ice hockey events, fitting considering it's listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places and is an official New York City Landmark. Behind the project are Canadian firm BBB Architects. Coincidentally, Messier himself is also Canadian. Speaking to Politico New York, William Brewer, a partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors spoke of the projects progress. "Delivery of the lease is all that remains before Kingsbridge can move forward with construction," he said. Seven years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg put forward the idea of the Armory being turned into a mall, however City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz both opposed it. According to Curbed New York, Diaz supports the ice center plan.