Ice skating rink will be returning to downtown

Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 2:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 2:23 p.m.

The rink is coming back.

After a five-year hiatus, a holiday season ice skating rink will return to downtown Gainesville in late November.

Back in 2006, the rink drew a crowd of about 10,000 for the final year of its five-year run on the downtown plaza.

"We're excited about it," said Steve Phillips, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. "We're happy to be able to bring this back."

The ice skating rink is scheduled to be open from Nov. 23 through Jan. 6. on the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. Admission will be $10 for one hour of skating with skate rental and $7 for those who bring their own ice skates.

Budget issues prompted the city government to cancel the rink in 2007, when two companies that bid on the rink contract each quoted a price in excess of $190,000.

This year, Pensacola-based Midwest Display Inc., will deliver and operate a 60- by 60-foot rink — with a holiday light display thrown in — from late November until early January.

City government will pay the company nothing and receive a 10 percent cut of the money from ticket sales, said David Ballard, the events coordinator with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

"He's convinced that he can make a profit off it and we certainly hope he can," said Ballard of Midwest Display owner, Mike Howard.

Howard said his company specializes in holiday light displays and ice rinks. He learned about the story of the downtown rink here through a man from Gainesville who was working on a show elsewhere. So he contacted the city to express interest in bringing it back.

"I just thought there was a good opportunity for us to put on the event again," Howard said.

If things go well this season, Howard said he would like to bring in a larger rink and an expanded light display in future years.

Christopher Curry is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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