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Skating organizers consider using bigger rink next time

Jan 05 2012
Adults and children skate on the seasonal rink at Centennial Square last week. 

Adults and children skate on the seasonal rink at Centennial Square last week.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford, timescolonist.com

An expanded skating surface - perhaps even ringing the Centennial Square fountain - is under consideration for next Christmas season following the success of this year's outdoor rink.

More than 5,000 people laced up the blades and took a glide around the small (56 feet by 36 feet) skating surface erected on the lower part of the square in early December by the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

"That's brilliant - Dec. 3 to Jan. 2 - one month's use and they came out in great numbers and with great appreciation and enthusiasm," DVBA general manager Ken Kelly said Wednesday.

Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay responded to the success of its outdoor skating rink with an expansion by more than 50 per cent (72 feet by 70 feet) for this year's 25th annual Magic of Christmas program, which ends Friday.

There is another outdoor rink at City Centre Park in Langford.

The DVBA board will hold a strategic planning session today and will consider options for next year, Kelly said.

"Do we go to a bigger ice sheet - 40 by 80 feet on the next level up, closer to the fountain? Do we do something on the 26-foot circumference around the fountain - a circular rink? These are all being looked at and we're trying to get some costs as we speak."

The small rink cost about $60,000 for the month.

Although the DVBA brought in some revenue through skate rentals and charged $2 for use of the rink, the demand prompted an extension of hours so those fees essentially covered the staffing costs, Kelly said.

"I would say that the board is very enthusiastic about the response of the public and how popular it was, and the public's enthusiasm for doing something a little bit bigger," Kelly said.

"You look at the price and you [say], 'Well maybe we're going to have to find some sponsors if we're going to go for a rink around the fountain or something.' "

The DVBA was lucky with the weather though, as December, normally Victoria's wettest month, was relatively dry, experiencing only 55 millimetres of precipitation compared with the average of 109 mm.

"We were so fortunate. It was an extremely dry month and that played favourably for the numbers," Kelly said.

But it wasn't all smooth skating.

The official opening came a week later than planned as organizers had to wait while the city decamped Occupy protesters who moved in Oct. 15, turning Centennial Square into an unofficial tent city.

The skating surface was just one part of the DVBA efforts to attract people downtown during the Christmas season.

The organization has a budget of about $150,000 for Christmas promotions that included everything from providing two hours of free parking in parkades and tree light-ups to sponsoring costumed carolers wandering through the downtown, and offering free horsedrawn trolley rides.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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