Warm weather delays ice rink plans

ESCANABA — The Escanaba Recreation Department is ready to open up its new ice rink behind the Catherine Bonifas Civic Center — but Mother Nature isn’t so willing.

“It’s just a waiting game with the weather, but we’re ready. As soon as the weather starts to get cold, we’re ready to start making some ice,” said Escanaba Recreation Director Kim Peterson.

This will be the first season the new ice skating rink will be open at the Civic Center. In October, the city decided to replace the city’s two rinks — located on the city’s south side at Royce Park and on the north side at Webster Elementary School — with a single rink located at the Civic Center. The decision was primarily a cost saving-measure, but it was also noted at the time the new location would be more accessible to students from Escanaba Upper Elementary, as well as the junior and senior high school.

Consolidating the two rinks into a single facility meant the city had to rethink some aspects of providing access to skating for residents. New utility poles were added to provide extra light, and the city ordered special rubber mats to allow skaters to enter and exit the Civic Center building.

“They can walk right into the building, change their skates, use the restroom, have something to eat, warm up. That’s the only thing we had to do inside, so we’re ready,” said Peterson of the new mats.

Outside, the city has already placed the hockey boards and has begun testing the hoses to flood the rink. Now all they can do is wait.

“Ideally, we would like a couple of weeks of weather in the teens to get the ice going, and in the forecast it’s just not happening,” said Peterson.

Preferably, the rink would be open over the Christmas break so school children can take to the ice, but historically it is typically late December or early January before temperatures stay cold enough. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures are expected to stay in the mid to high 30s for the foreseeable future.

However, there is some hope for skaters who feel like they are missing out on time on the ice. When the rink officially opens, combined skating hours will be extended from the 5 to 8 p.m. skate times for the Royce Park and Webster rinks to 2:30 to 8 p.m.