Ice rink closes after one month

By Thursday afternoon, all that remained of Ashland's ice rink was some slush and part of the railing.

The Rotary Centennial Ice Rink closed for the season on Sunday, and the ice has been slowly melting since, as Ashland's Parks & Recreation Department clears away one of the city's few remaining signs of winter.

This season was the shortest ever for the city-owned ice rink, which opened late this year after construction on the rink's new underground cooling system fell behind schedule. The rink, located on Winburn Way, typically opens in November, but this year it opened Feb. 14.

"It was just really fulfilling to see it open up and to be able to see the kids and the families have fun together," said Charlie Fifield, the manager of the rink.

About 1,500 people skated on the rink during the month it was open, bringing in $5,000 in revenues, according to the city. Operating the rink cost the city about $7,000 plus utilities costs, which the city has not yet seen the bill for, said Rachel Dials, recreation superintendent for the Parks & Recreation Department.

During a typical season, held November through February, the city nets about $45,000 from approximately 13,000 skaters. But last year, due to the outdated cooling system, operating the rink cost the city $97,000, Dials said.

"Normally we are in the red," she said Thursday. "Normally the city recovers about half of the cost of operating the rink."

The city took steps to conserve funds this year by only paying staff members to operate the rink five days per week, instead of the typical seven, she said. To encourage more skaters to take to the ice, the city also lowered the cost of renting skates to $5 from the previous $6.50 to $7.

During the month the rink was open, it was temporarily shuttered on only two days due to poor weather conditions. However, often in the afternoons on warm days, some of the ice would begin to melt and a thin layer of water would form on the surface, making skating more difficult.

"Due to the weather we had a really tough time because we're not usually open this late," said Dan Merrill, a city park technician who was helping clear the remaining slush from the rink Thursday.

Some Parks & Recreation Department officials would like to see the city put a roof over the rink to enable it to stay open during warmer weather; however, the costs of installing a roof are probably prohibitive for the city right now, Merrill said.

For many years the rink had a roof over it, but in February 2007, a tree fell on the roof and crushed it.

"Everybody wants one back, but it's quite expensive," Merrill said. "Also it would have to be better engineered than the last one."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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