City hopes to have outdoor ice rinks open to public soon
Employees with Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation began work this week to bring back a popular attraction from last winter when the city added two sheets of ice to the amenities at Howelsen Hill.
By putting out the ice sheets and making the rinks free to use, everyone from children in the Learn to Skate program to young adults coming back from college and wanting to play pond hockey will have a place to go, said Nick Carelli, Steamboat Springs’s recreation supervisor.
“These type of ice sheets were pretty common where I grew up, so to finally get the approval last year … was awesome,” Carelli said. “That’s why we did it, and it was pretty special.”
Even though work began this week, Carelli does not expect the ice to be open to the public until after Jan. 1. The outdoor rinks are provided to the community free of charge, and this winter, the city plans to designate one rink for hockey and one for general skating.
However, both rinks will be open for either activity if not already in use.
In 2020 Steamboat added the outdoor ice sheets, which opened in early December. This year that opening date is a few weeks later, but Carelli said city crews are working hard to get the ice ready as soon as possible and they’re hoping for a little help from Mother Nature.
“Last year was unique in that it was cold early, and we were able to open (the ice) up for 13 weeks of operation,” Carelli said. “Looking back, it was ideal, obviously. This year we’d be happy with probably seven or eight weeks.”
The ice was built on top of the outdoor tennis courts at Howelsen the first year. This year the sheets of ice have been moved to the area next to the courts where there are sand volleyball courts in the summer.
The new location is better for snow removal and will not damage the recently resurfaced tennis courts. It also will allow greater public access.
However, that public access also means that the city will be asking the community to help out by obeying signage and staying off the ice when the temperatures are warmer.
Carelli is also hoping residents and visitors will honor the recommended hours of operation, which are expected to be from 7-9 a.m. and from 5-10 p.m. seven days a week. The public will be asked to stay off the ice in the middle of the day, when the temperatures normally climb.
Right now, the city is also asking the public to stay off the ice until the sheets are officially open.
“As much as it looks frozen, our highest point is probably about 12 inches of water, so it is going to take multiple nights of really cold temperatures to freeze all the way through,” Carelli said. “It might feel frozen on top, but somebody could easily break through that and damage the lining.”
He said if a skate blade were to slice the liner, it could further delay the opening or even shut down the free rink for the season.
“We’re working toward being open the first week in the New Year,” said Alexis Wolf, recreation manager. “But we need everyone’s assistance in staying off the ice, so that it can freeze properly and not be damaged delaying opening further.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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