December 27, 2011
By Dave Alexander
Plans for an outdoor ice skating rink in downtown Muskegon are progressing toward a Jan. 14-15 weekend opening.
Now all downtown promoters need is some freezing weather.
As mid-December stretches into a new year without any snow and little freezing temperatures in Muskegon, Downtown Muskegon Now continues to put the pieces together for the winter ice rink project.
The temporary rink on land donated by Parkland Development Co. along West Western Avenue between Jefferson and First streets will be open in mid-January, weather permitting.
The rink will be available seven days a week until the end of February, according to Andrew Haan, director of Downtown Muskegon Now — the downtown development and promotion agency. Anyone can use the rink between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.; On Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. there will be skate rentals available.
Building and maintaining the downtown ice sheet will be representatives of the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex — the multisport winter facility at Muskegon State Park.
“We are so excited to be able to expand our winter recreation and tourism efforts outside of Muskegon State Park and into the downtown area,” complex Executive Director Jim Rudicil said. “This will be a fun, family destination welcome to skaters of all ages and skills.”
Haan said the community has rallied around the ice rink concept, with Alcoa Howmet, Frontier Communications and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County providing support for the effort. The Muskegon Lumberjacks are organizing a used skate drive to collect pairs of skates that will be sharpened and resold to the public for $5.
“We wanted to be able to share our love for skating with those along the Muskegon lakeshore,” hockey club President Tim Taylor said. “Through this skate drive, we hope to be able to supply the area with skates to last at least a full season at a price affordable to all.”
Those interested in donating old skates to the Lumberjacks' cause can bring them to L.C. Walker Arena offices, 955 Fourth, before Jan. 14. For each pair of skates donated, the Lumberjacks will give the contributor a ticket for a raffle for a 12-person suite for the Red Wings Alumni game Feb. 11 at the Walker Arena and a VIP event with players at the Lake House after the game.
Work is under way to prepare the ground for the downtown ice rink, which will be about 75 by 100 feet, Haan said. Lighting will be provided for night-time skating, and providing music for the skaters is being explored, he said.
Frontier Communications will make the rink a wi-fi “hot spot” with wireless Internet connections. The rink is across the street from the Alcoa Celebration Square and the new children's fountain in front of the U.S. Post Office in downtown Muskegon.
“The amount of support this project has received really says a lot about the community and what it values,” Haan said. “We hope this winter demonstrates a demand for something more permanent.”
Also contributing to the ice rink project have been the city of Muskegon, Muskegon County, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, PH Repair, Schultz Transport, Tyler Sales and the Ron Hugenaut Christmas Tree Farm.