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Posted on Tue. Jan. 22, 2013 - 12:06 am EDT

Park officials aim to grow rink’s size, upkeep budget

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For a brief time one Sunday late last month, officials at the Headwaters Park ice rink were in crisis mode.

High winds had tested the limits of the rinks chiller, which keeps the ice frozen, and just as the peak hours for skaters approached that afternoon, the 30-year-old piece of equipment died.

Luckily, officials were able to rent a chiller the same day, and that machine is still in use. It is expected to keep the rink open through March 4. But the incident now has officials geared up to raise money for a new chiller in time for next year – plus enough money to possibly expand the popular rink.

“We need a more reliable chiller, one that lasts 10 to 20 years,” said Geoff Paddock, executive director of the Headwaters Park Alliance, which oversees the rink.

Currently, the rink is about 60 feet by 120 feet, and Paddock said he and others have talked about expanding the ice surface to 80 feet by 140 feet or 80 feet by 160 feet.

That expansion, along with a new chiller, will cost at least $150,000, Paddock said.

“It would help us add capacity, and it would give skaters more of an opportunity for exercise and practice,” said Paddock, adding that the current rink has a capacity for about 100 skaters. “We have athletes that come out for exercise, and they could take more laps.”

Paddock said the park alliance would like to raise the money for the chiller – which could also extend the rink’s season and the expansion through private donations.

But no firm plan is in place.

Typically, the ice rink is open for nearly four months beginning in November, and this year the 200,000th skater to visit the rink since it opened a decade ago entered its gate.

Despite low temperatures and winds, there were skaters taking advantage of the rink Monday, whizzing around in circles under a pavilion that kept out small flakes of snow.

“This is the only outside rink we’re aware of in a 100-mile radius,” Paddock said. “The pavilion makes a difference when it’s raining or snowing, so we’re one of the only venues like this in a great distance.”

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