Esky wants to combine skating rinks

ESCANABA — A proposed plan to replace two Escanaba ice rinks with a single rink behind the Catherine Bonifas Civic Center was discussed during a meeting of the Escanaba Recreation Advisory Board Tuesday.

Currently, Escanaba maintains the Royce Park Ice Rink and the Webster Ice Rink each winter. Recreation Director Kim Peterson said these rinks have been declining in popularity as of late.

“The numbers have been down, the weather has been horrible — I should have said the weather’s been too nice; (that’s) been horrible,” she said.

The rinks have created significant expenses for the city, as well. In the past fiscal year, Peterson said the city spent about $41,400 on labor for winter sports.

“I would say 80 percent of that is going to be at the ice rinks,” she said.

According to Peterson, maintaining two ice rinks requires the city to pay two full-time union workers throughout the winter. Because of this, she said the savings created by having a single ice rink would be seen almost immediately.

“No matter how you look at it, I believe it’s going to be cost-effective — in the first year, (you’re) going to save money,” she said.

Peterson said one or two people have called to voice their disapproval of the proposed change. However, she noted having a centralized ice rink — especially one adjacent to the civic center — could help make the rink more accessible and attractive to students and other people in Escanaba.

“They can walk from the upper (elementary), they can walk from the junior high and the high school, and we have other activities for them to do,” she said.

This would not be the first time an ice rink would be located at this site — decades ago, the city had maintained an ice rink there. Peterson said Escanaba’s water department is doing research on how this had been accomplished.

“Water is looking at trying to figure out how it was done years and years ago,” she said, noting the department believes there is a copper water line running in the area.

Peterson also said establishing a centralized ice rink is a part of the city’s five-year recreation plan.

“We have been talking about this for years,” she said.

Discussion on the centralized ice rink will continue with a public hearing during the board’s next regular meeting, which is scheduled to take place on Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. at Escanaba City Hall.