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Posted on Mon. Dec. 24, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

Ice rink near record in spite of issues

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It wasn’t the best day for the Headwaters Park ice rink.

For starters, high winds earlier in the week played havoc with the rink’s chiller, which keeps the ice frozen, and by Sunday the 30-year-old piece of equipment was on the fritz. Then, within a few hours of opening, the power in parts of downtown – including the rink – went out.

That meant no rooms where skaters could get warm and no way to serve coffee or hot chocolate.

“Our ice was pretty marginal to begin with,” said Jack Rhinehart, assistant manager at the rink. “With no rooms to get warm, we decided to close up.”

Despite the problems Sunday, Rhinehart said there is still a chance an attendance record could be set at the rink this year, surpassing the more than 25,200 people who came to enjoy the ice or watch others skate last year.

Built in 2003, attendance has been brisk at the rink every year. Between 20,000 and 25,000 skaters take a turn on the ice, officials said, and this past Thursday they celebrated as the 200,000th skater made her way onto the ice.

Rhinehart partly attributes the success to the price to skate – which has only been raised once in nearly a decade, and in that instance only to make the dollar amount even so officials did not need thousands of quarters on hand to make change.

But also, he said, the rink provides a place for families to get together and do something those of an older generation grew up doing this time of year.

It’s a place where families can bond, Rhinehart said.

“I think part of it is – I don’t know if I want to say it’s nostalgia – but my generation and the generation that’s a little older, all they had was outside skating,” Rhinehart said. “It was fun, and it was kind of a social thing.”

And Sunday, Rhinehart, who has been a part of the rink since its conception, was hoping to have it back open today, just in time for anyone who wants to get in a Christmas Eve skate.

The good news was that a chiller rink officials were renting was on its way, and the power downtown was restored in less than an hour.

“If we can, we’ll be open,” Rhinehart said.

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