My life has been consumed by holiday and seasonal rinks for the past couple of weeks. Growing up in New England, my perception of a seasonal rink was shoveling the snow off a swampy area behind my elementary school and then skating. One year, my family tried to build a naturally cooled temporary rink which failed miserably. We did get ice for a little while, but the temperatures got too warm too fast. Way back in the day, we skated on the mill pond in Thompsonville Connecticut with the Somersville (CT) mill pond being a close second. The Somersville location was the only pond where we could skate about a mile into the woods on the frozen creek. Little did I know then, that this was the natural equivalent of a skating path. For some reason, all these old memories come to mind whenever thoughts of seasonal and holiday rinks come up.
Today, skating on the mill pond is just a memory. Thompsonville and Somersville are usually too warm now for residents to enjoy natural ice skating. Prior to my High School graduation, the town lost the jeep in the water due to thin ice when resurfacing Thompsonville's pond. Seasonal rinks were more abundant then. A seasonal rink is a rink that only operates during the winter. Some seasonal rinks are very fancy with a roof and sides, but others are just a slab of ice in the outdoors. Seasonal rinks seem rarer now, as owners enclose them and start to operate them on a more continuous basis. Seasonal Rinks are not usually very pretty; they tend to just provide people with a place to skate without frills. Holiday rinks usually have a season just a couple of months long, operate in conjunction with shopping or holiday activities, and are usually located in a world renowned scenic location with heavy pedestrian traffic.
Due to the net effect of global warming (and perhaps more towns than Enfield losing their jeeps in the water), the world has turned to holiday rinks that use man-made refrigeration to make the ice. I think the current popularity of holiday and seasonal rinks started a few years back in Europe. The first rink I found was Somerset House in England. Nothing like a grand old palace with an ice rink during the holiday season. An odd European rink is the FlevOnice in the Netherlands that runs 5 kilometers long. The FlevOnice reminds me of the Ottawa Canals where skates can zoom on the ice for miles. London seems to be full of holiday rinks these days, there is even one at the London Eye, called EyeSkate.
In the US, we have quite a few holiday rinks in beautiful locations. I think the Embarcadero Holiday rink is really beautiful with a commanding view of the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Santa Monica puts up the ICE at Santa Monica annually, which adds an additional component of ice skating to the already georgous downtown area. The Reston Town Center Pavilion and Ice Rink is an experience always treasured by people who live in that area. Reston's glass roof is a nice touch and a distinctive feature for this seasonal rink. Even the Standard Hotel in New York City gets in on the action with their ice rink in Manhattan.
Seasonal and holiday rinks do well in a variety of locations. Property owners, downtown councils, chambers of commerce, hotels, and leasing agents probably wonder what elements go into a successful holiday or seasonal ice rink. Here is a list of attributes of successful seasonal and holiday locations, but we have to caution you, site selection is an art, not a science.
- Visually stunning area
- Metro area population over 350,000
- Busy foot traffic
- Easy access to highways and major streets
- Low amounts of precipitation
- Tie-ins with Santa, Holiday Lighting Ceremonies, and other novelties
- Synergies with area traditions, and complementary activities
- Easy access to high voltage and current electricity (Temporary Rinks can draw 800A @ 480V)
- Enough vacant area to put up an 80' X 60' rink will a trailer for skate rental, tents and party areas
All of these factors tie in together and make a successful site. Once a good site is chosen, an early start is highly recommended. The more lead time, the better. Ice rinks are full of moving parts, and enough time creates tight organization and a seamless opening day. Rink Management Services Corporation can study your site for you, make recommendations, and operate the rink should you decide to start one of these holiday traditions for people in your area.
Different rinks have different management structures. There is a wide variety of possibilities ranging from a turnkey operation where the owners operate the rinks themselves, to a leasing arrangement, to a public-private partnership, all the way to a management contract. Every location and ownership group has their own priorities, making the structure of every project a little different.
We hope this holiday season you and your family have a chance to check out a holiday or seasonal rink near you. I know I will, even though quite a bit has changed since those long lost days on the mill ponds of my youth. Seasonal rinks are great fun and add a lot to the livability index of any community.