Strap on the skates and shop.
Downtown Lawrence Inc. leaders are working on an idea to add an outdoor, temporary ice skating rink to downtown in hopes of attracting more holiday shoppers.
“We think it could be a great way to get people downtown,” said Jane Pennington, executive director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. “It could occupy the kids while parents are shopping, and it would just be a lot of fun for the community.”
The rink would be open from early December to early January, and likely would be located on a half-block portion of Eighth Street just west of Massachusetts Street.
But it is not smooth sliding for the project just yet. Operating costs for a rink would run about $100,000, although admission charges would offset some of the cost. But still, Downtown Lawrence’s idea of finding funding at City Hall will be tough.
“It is a good idea, but bad timing,” said City Commissioner Lance Johnson, who has advocated for more downtown attractions. “This year or next year probably isn’t the time to do it. It gets down to wants versus needs. That sounds kind of like a scrooge but that’s the reality now.”
Pennington said DLI will continue to pursue the project by seeking private donations.
“It is vitally important for us to come up with creative ideas for downtown,” Pennington said. “We have competition all around us. We have to do everything we can to set ourselves apart from the competition.”
Pennington has been discussing the rink proposal with a Texas-based company that specializes in renting and installing portable ice-making equipment. Downtown Lawrence would also offer ice skate rental at the rink.
Stillwater, Okla., created a holiday rink last year. It charged a $7 entrance fee and attracted 11,000 skaters in its first season, Pennington said.