City to construct three outdoor ice rinks in Ann Arbor parks

Monday, January 11, 2016 - 7:46pm

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After delays due to warm weather in December, a planned installation of three natural ice skating rinks is underway in the city of Ann Arbor.

Located at Allmendinger, Burns and Northside parks, installations for the project began Monday afternoon with the laying of water for the ice rink. Now-former City Councilmember Stephen Kunselman proposed the use of $89,169 from the city’s cash reserves to create the ice rinks before his term ended in 2015. The allocation was approved as part of the 2015 to 2016 Ann Arbor city budget.

The ice rinks will be added to Veterans Memorial Park and Buhr Park ice rinks.

In an interview, Councilmember Julie Grand (D–Ward 3), who is involved in the city’s Parks Advisory Commission, said the locations were chosen both to spread the rinks around the city and make them accessible to the community, as well as based on where rinks have been located historically in the city.

Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, said it will take 10 to 14 days for the ice to achieve the desired four inches of thickness. He said staff will return to the rinks nightly during this time period to rewater the rinks until the ice hits four inches.

Grand said usage of the rinks will be available free of charge, and the rinks will be open to the public during regular park hours shortly.

“In about two weeks, weather permitting, we should see the signs removed and (the rinks) will be open for the public to skate,” Grand said.

According to Grand, one-third of the budget for the project will be designated for parts that can be reused, such as the frame of the rinks, with the remainder being allocated toward staff labor, a potentially ongoing expense.

She said she is thrilled about the ice rinks and the Ann Arbor community shares her sentiment.

“I honestly have not heard anyone say they are unanimously excited about any topic other than the skating rink,” she said. “Everyone is excited about it.

Law Prof. David Santacroce, who is chair of the Ann Arbor Parks Advisory Commission, said by building the ice rinks, the city of Ann Arbor is recognizing a desire among residents for recreational activities such as ice skating. Several commercial rinks currently exist in and near to the city.

“People want to skate and they’d like to do it closer to home and for free if possible,” Santacroce said. “If we can get (the rinks) established, if the weather cooperates, it’s a great parks service for the community.”

Engineering junior Michael Vizzini, who grew up in the area, said the ice rinks would be a great addition to the town.

“I used to have a homemade ice rink at my house when I was younger and it was incredible,” Vizzini said.

Grand encouraged community members to skate at the rink, and said she’s hopeful that large crowds at the rinks prompt more city projects like it in the future.

“If they are widely used, then it will give a message to the city that more money should be budgeted towards ice rinks and similar projects in the future,” she said.