After years of restoration, the Greenport American Legion’s Burton Potter Post 185 is almost ready to open its doors to the public with a refurbished skating rink, stage, kitchen and more.
Mindy Ryan, general manager of the Legion, has big plans for the venue once it is open. “We want to offer services to veterans here, we want to have kids skating in here, we want to hold concerts and plays here, we want to be an affordable option for weddings,” she said at the legion’s open house this afternoon. “And it’s really close to being ready.”
The efforts to restore the legion have been ongoing for several years, and it shows. As part of the renovations, a new south wall had to be installed built and the roof replaced in 2012. The electric service has been replaced and the whole building has been rewired. New heating and sprinkler systems have been installed. A drop ceiling has been replaced with painted mahogany Lauan panels.
But there’s still more work to do, says Ryan.
“The more funds we raise, the more projects we get to do,” she said. The next immediate hurdle is finishing the fire alarm system, which included some unexpected costs. “We found out from the fire marshal we have to do a lot of things that we weren’t initially planning. It was a little setback but we’re just about ready to move forward on that project.”
The skating rink, which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, will be named after George D. Costello Sr., a leading member of the restoration project who died in 2012. The rink had fallen into disrepair in the years leading up to the storm, and after Sandy flooded the building the rink required extensive work .
“It was his vision, his passion to rebuild this rink,” Everett “Butch” Corwin, one of the Legion’s volunteers, said in a 2016 interview. “George took it on as his mission.”
Costello had worked on it for about nine months before he died of an apparent heart attack.
His vision will come to life soon. Ryan says their goal is to get skaters in the rink “as soon as possible.”
“We really want to see some kids skating in here,” she said. “It won’t be a money maker. There will be skate rentals and admission, but we want it to be very affordable. Even if we lose money we want to get them in here.”
Ryan says they were recently able to purchase 315 pairs of roller skates from a Port Jefferson rink that is closing down at a steep discount — around $50 for skates which normally cost $175. In addition to the nearly 100 pairs of skates the volunteers were able to salvage from the old skates left in the building.
The work that’s been done so far has been provided largely by volunteers, including today’s open house. “We have volunteers that are helping with food, selling tickets. We have volunteers working on the building, contractors who have done the work for free or at a reduced cost. People from all over, North and South Forks.”
Ryan said the Veterans Day open house was an opportunity to get people into the Legion, which is named for Burton Potter, an Orient man who was killed at the age of 21 while serving in the United States Army.
An upcoming project she’d like to see completed soon is to finish the upstairs room, which has been traditionally used as a meeting room by Legionnaires. “It’s up to the members of the Legion what they want to do with it in the future, but we want to make that a nice space,” Ryan said.
American Legion’s Burton Potter Post 185 will have a soft opening on New Year’s Eve. The skating rink will not be ready, though it’s close to done, but Ryan says it will be a party nonetheless.
“It’ll be a big celebration,” Ryan said. “The ball will drop at midnight and the Greenport American Legion is reborn.”