MONTPELIER — The ice rink on the State House lawn in the Capital City will make a welcome comeback later this month.
City officials confirmed this week it is hoped to install a newly designed rink around Dec. 17, in time for holiday celebrations around Christmas. The new design is expected to be more in keeping with the “architectural and aesthetic integrity of the State House grounds,” as prescribed by the Capital Complex Commission which approved the design.
It follows a review of the rink first proposed by the Put a Rink on It Committee in 2016. The rink returned in winter 2017, but only on the understanding that a more suitable design be developed after complaints that a wooden railing around the rink made it “look like a stable,” in the words of one city official.
Architect Stephen Frey then presented a plan for a new design that would use materials, such as clear dasherboards seen at hockey rinks, and more subtle lighting, that was approved by the Capital Complex Commission in July.
“The new design has clear dasherboards – walls, essentially – set in an aluminum frame,” said Assistant City Manager Sue Allen, who oversees the project after the city took over management of the rink. “It’s much more professional looking than the previous wooden rink, and is a design used for other municipal skating rinks.”
Allen said improvements in the design would provide a more level surface that would be easier to maintain and safer for skaters.
“The rink holds about four inches of water, which should make it much easier to keep frozen,” Allen said. “Last year, we had to freeze up to 16 inches of water in some areas, which was time consuming and led to the rink being closed more often than we wanted. This year we hope to open it earlier in the season, and keep it open a bit longer as well.”
Allen said the city had state approval to use the new rink design for five years.
“It’s easy to disassemble and store during the off-seasons,” Allen said. “The city has a little Bambini to keep the ice groomed. And as always, the skating will be free and open to the public.
“This rink is the same size as last year’s structure. Many of us would love to see a slightly larger rink, and this dasherboard design could allow us to expand it in the future if we choose to,” she added.
Allen said the total cost of the rink is expected to be about $60,000.
“We have $25,000 from the Recreation Department, $15,000 from a state recreation grant, and a pledge from National Life,” Allen said. “We have one outstanding grant application that we’re waiting to hear about, but confident we can pay the bill. I’m really excited about getting the rink up and running.”
“In the past two pilot project years, we’ve seen kids and families out skating on cold days and nights. It’s a great free recreational opportunity. And we believe the rink has drawn visitors and tourists to Montpelier to give a boost to the local economy,” Allen added.
Allen said the City Council and Mayor Anne Watson were enthusiastic about keeping the rink on the State House lawn, and Gov. Phil Scott and Chris Cole, commissioner of buildings and general services, were also strong supporters.
The rink will be seven days a week and motion-activated lights will allow for nighttime skating.