‘Wow,’ ice rink is popular
Virginia Wilson brought her daughter to the Park City Ice Arena just before noon on Wednesday, giving 9-year-old Rachel something different to do during their visit to the city.
On their second ski trip to Park City from Houston, Rachel decided that she did not want to hit the slopes, her mother said, and ice skating was a good option.
"She didn’t want to ski. Everyone else was skiing, so we were going to come skate," the mother said, adding that they had read that the rink opened in a local magazine. "It’s just an alternative to (skiing)."
The Wilsons are among the thousands of people who have visited the ice rink since its opening on Feb. 25 and attendance, the general manager of the Quinn’s Junction recreation complex says, is significantly outpacing predictions.
City Hall and the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District unveiled the ice rink as the Winter Olympics were ending in Turin, Italy, and, it seems, the government was right in predicting that the Olympic buzz for sports like hockey and speed skating influenced people to visit the new rink.
People who live in Park City and other parts of Summit County are joining tourists at the facility, located off S.R. 248 east of Prospector.
Andy Spears, who was visiting Park City from Palm City, Fla., took his family to the ice rink on Wednesday, saying that the Olympics inspired his daughters, who are 9 and 5.
"We don’t have ice skating in Florida. They were really into the Olympics," he said. "They were on Rollerblades in our living room."
The numbers stun Stacey Noonan, the general manager of the recreation complex, who said the rink’s opening weekend drew 3,000 people.
"That’s a huge ‘Wow’ . . . ,’" she said. "It was a great opening weekend."
Since the opening, the numbers have been steady and strong, she said. On the weekends, public skating sessions have drawn between 300 and 350 people, she said. During the weekdays, Noonan reported, up to 200 people have skated during public sessions.
"They’re great. They surpassed our highest expectations. That’s a lot of people at a public skate," she said.
She said programs at the ice rink are also popular. Some of the numbers include:
( Learn to skate classes have attracted 432 people.
( About 75 people have signed up to learn to play hockey.
( Eighty men and women have signed up for an adult hockey league.
( Hockey skills sessions, known as ‘stick and puck’ sessions, are averaging 25 people.
( An average of 10 people have attended drop-in hockey sessions.
( More than 50 people have expressed an interest in both speedskating and curling programs but they have not yet been launched.
( Thirty birthday parties have been booked over the next two months.
"People have been wanting this facility for 20 years and now it’s here and they’re psyched," Noonan said.
The rink opened after a lengthy civic discussion over the past decade about where it should be built and how it should be funded. Voters in Park City and the Snyderville Basin approved $4 million in bonds to build the rink in a measure that won widespread support in both places. The rink cost $4.8 million and the city plans to recoup the $800,000 by selling the naming rights.
The arena, at 46,000 square feet, features an Olympic-sized ice rink, 100 feet by 200 feet, which is larger than those used in the NHL.
The ice rink will anchor a recreation complex that will also feature playing fields for sports like soccer, lacrosse and softball. The fields are expected to open later.
Noonan said she expects attendance to remain about the same through this winter. The rink is scheduled to close for the season on May 27 and reopen on Sept. 1 for the 2006-2007 winter. Noonan said some skaters want it to stay open in the summer. She said she will research whether the rink’s financial numbers can be sustained in the summer.
David Harris, a volunteer at the ice rink and a speedskater, is happy with the number of people interested in his sport and did not expect the turnout.
"I was happy to get seven to 10 people," he said.
Harris partly credits the Olympics and the successes of speedskaters like America’s Apolo Anton Ohno for the interest. He said part of his sport’s attraction is that it is not as violent as hockey and the equipment is not as expensive.
Short-track speedskaters have not started skating at the rink yet, however, because safety pads for the boards are needed, he said.
"It’s another sport other than hockey," he said. "It doesn’t require as much initial cost. There’s less body contact."
For information about scheduling and pricing, visit the ice rink’s Web site, http://www.pcice.org , or call 615-5700.
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The unemployment rate in Summit County dropped below 5% in March for the first time in more than a year, signaling further improvement in the job market. The March reading was the last taken during a full month of the ski season.