The dream began a few years back, when a small group of people approached the City's Building & Licensing Committee and suggested that a combination summer Splash Pad and winter ice skating rink would be an excellent addition to bring more people to the downtown area (it was proposed on East Ludington Avenue, on the vacant lot just east and across the street of the library).  The idea was shot down in committee then, but the germ of that idea came up once again just before this last Halloween and described by the Mason County Press.

Over the next few weeks, the idea was brought up repeatedly in the sites inter-related to the Downtown Ludington Board and the media for marketing and in more City committees and even the council, which unanimously approved the idea on November 12:

"Interim City Manager Brock introduced a plan by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to put in a synthetic ice rink in the north James Street Plaza for the public to skate for free. The DDA has raised money to pay for this rink through sponsorships by DDA members. He stated that these sheets of material put together in a puzzle fashion would be 20’ x 40’ and will cost approximately $8,000. If the DDA receives additional sponsorships, they would like to purchase and install additional sheets for a larger rink to accommodate more skaters. The life of these panels is 7-8 years.

The DDA Board authorized the purchase of the ice rink up to the amount of sponsorships received and it is up to City Council to decide to allow the DDA to put this ice rink on public property. Councilor Winczewski questioned the maintenance on this rink and who would be cleaning the snow off of it. It was explained that shovels and a broom will be set up so it will be up to the users of the rink to keep it clean. City Attorney Richard Wilson asked about the time frame for ordering and installing the rink and annually what time frame would it be set up for use by the public. Councilor Cain stated that the DDA would like to have this up in mid-December for the holiday shopping in the downtown. It is expected that it will be set up during the winter months to begin with... Motion carried."

Around December 13, it was noted that the small rink was almost ready, and by December 20, Interlochen Public Radio heralded its operation, relating it would be set up through March after talking with the rink's main impetus-provider, Jen Tooman.    

Yet, the small 800 sq. ft. rink didn't allow for much room, so you just didn't see the people utilizing this rink.  The second batch of synthetic ice panels were purchased for another $8000 or so and arrived after some of the winter's worst weather, to be installed around February 3rd.

But winter resumed shortly after this expansion, and a weird thing happened.  It was noted from the start that use of the rink would be free, funded effectively by the donor businesses who would get advertising as some compensation on the fence panels.  Which is great, but it was also noted that the users would have the task of shoveling and/or sweeping the surface of the rink so that it could be used for skating.  This doesn't seem to be happening; throughout the month, the rink has been covered with snow, even though there hasn't been a lot of snow and the snow has been mostly been of the fluffy, easy to shovel/sweep variety.  Here's what I saw yesterday:

Clearly, the height of snow in the rink seems to be the same height of the snow on the outside.  There doesn't seem to be any signs of skating on the inside of the rink, no signs of shoveled snow on the outside, even though there hasn't been any significant snow since the previous weekend.  Frankly, I wasn't able to see any sort of snow removal equipment rather than a shovel in the immediate area, which didn't seem to have been used recently:

It made me curious as to why there wasn't public interest in using the synthetic ice skating rink, but then I slept on that thought and returned this morning.  I walked onto the rink area with my usually-reliable winter shoes, and had a hard time keeping my footing and not throwing my back out on the synthetic ice underlying the snow, deceptively hiding the slick surface.

And then it hit me; how difficult would it be to shovel (or sweep) off this synthetic surface when it's all you can do to retain your footing, then still remain vertical when you carry that snow on the shovel to the side and toss it over the fence?  

This rink will fail in its potential to draw anybody to the downtown if the original dream is not modified in some way.  Can a pavilion be placed over the skating area to keep out most of the snow?  Can the downtown wizards jerryrig a device to function like a snow-removing Zamboni and have somebody to use it when needed?  Will skate rentals become a reality from Gordy's or other businesses?  Will they have a 'skating event' to formally introduce the rink to the public or just announce it again through various media and hope it sees use?

The money is spent, and they have a few seasons to iron out the wrinkles and make this work, otherwise this could become nearly a $20,000 mistake for the downtown businesses.

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Zamboni? Well, a cheap tow behind model starts at around $10K, and a more useful one is upwards of $100K+. Why leave one shovel and broom out to clean when several for use is much more sensible? For several people, this is certainly not a 1-2 person job. Why aren't the promoters of this entire idea out there volunteering their time to make the rink useful? Or advertise for helpers/volunteers. Where is the warming room/shack? Where is the hot coffee/chocolate machine for skaters? The idea people that did this at a cost of $20K to us taxpayers, sure came up short on all scores imho. And that kind of money sure could have better uses in these times, sad.

I agree.  And for the people who think this is a project with no city expenditures... Who installed the rink?  Who installed the barriers? Anyone know?  All businesses volunteered work for that?  And who will take it down?  And store it along  with the barriers?  All business volunteers in private business storage?  If so that's the way it should be.  Otherwise probably was done by our DPW in city building somewhere being paid by the tax payer.  And how many hours did that take?  Bill the DDA if the DPW did.  There are so many more important things this city needs, like new roads, the lead out of our goosenecks, sidewalks, less taxes, fewer fees, this year we not only had water and sewer go up, but one percent tax administration fee, and the DDA just keeps going crazier with these kinds of stupid ideas.  Leave community activities to the Chamber with their own money we have no idea where it comes from or goes but at least it's not part of public taxes.

What a stupid insurance liability for the public to shovel the snow.  Any good big city insurance-seeker humpty-dumpty could go down there and take a great fall and Sue the downtown businesses and I'm sure that no matter how many signs they put out about being at your own risk shoveling the snow off, a good injury lawyer would find the DDA at fault.  Stupid size, stupid synthetic material, stupid placement and stooopid idea.  Go ice skate at WSCC.  Poor businesses that have to put up with stupid DDA ideas.

Any connection between the cost of the ice rink panels and the check for $3,800 that was recently diverted from the Ludington State Park to the DLB/DDA?

Looks a bit of a coincidence to be an arms length transaction. 

With the check being made out to Downtown Ludington I wonder where the proceeds really went? 

And way to go for the 'chumps' er sponsors who pissed away $500 of their hard earned advertising budget for a advertising banner that you have to walk on top of to read.

Willy, it's synthetic ice. No watering or freezing needed. Actually it could be used in the summer. Move it down to the splash pad area.

Thanks stump. No kidding! I've had never heard of synthetic ice. I thought you were kidding so I searched on the internet and found it, it looks like amazing stuff. I deleted my previous comments because suddenly my comments were  totally irrelevant. As long as taxpayer's money is not used for this project they can cover the Badger with it for all I care.

And the interviewed Toomen says that this rink is quite a bit harder to make motion on with skates over real ice. Maybe that is a significant part of the lack of usage too. And in just a few weeks, ending the March month, this will all be done with for the winter and stored away till next December, 9 months of dormancy, and $20 grand down the drain again.

Only down the drain for the people who supported it with ads AQUAMAN.

From the photo looks like there is 20 advertising banners at $500 a pop, call it $10,000.

Tack on the recent $3,800 check from the BrrrrrrrrrFest that was absconded from the LSP and they are up to $13,800 for their $8,000 rink.

Now  they want to double the size of the rink. All they need to do is find additional ad sponsors and the DLB/DDA will again be solidly in the black with this endeavor.

Then in a few years they can sell the rink to one of their friends for 10 cents on the dollar.

Who said they don't know how to scam er make money.

Shinblind, some of the banners allowed two sponsors to advertise, so there were about 26 sponsors that I could make out.  It isn't clear who made the banners or paid for the banners, but Safety Decals is the likely place where they came from, and I'm sure that Heather Tykoski was diligent in getting a good price for the DDA from her husband's company if that were the case.

Would like to get some feedback on how well the synthetic ice works compared to the normal stuff by area ice skaters, but those living by the rink don't seem to be seeing any action out there.  Maybe this coming winter somebody will take the dare to compare.   

Willy, I used the word 'synthetic' three times in the article referring to the ice surface, and it was also used once in the DDA release provided.  Your usual attention to details 'slipped' on this occasion.

About maintenance.

Interesting that they recommend covering with a tarp for outdoor use. No mention of snow shovels.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PY5SyjpfpY

I think they are addressing use of artificial ice where snow is at a minimum or usage is indoors. I imagine falling leaves, branches, blowing dirt, bird crap or even water can have an affect when using this stuff outside so covering it makes sense. I have a problem with using water on the surface. If water or rain gets between the joints and under the panels I can see a mildew or moss problem unless it's dismantled several times a year to dry it out. Of course like everything else, there are going to be maintenance issues. But as far as ease of use and assembly this is head and heals better than conventional ice rinks. I think X has a good point about the joints separating or being uneven when on a not so perfect level surface. I imagine there would exist a tripping hazard and for old folks and youngsters a fall on such a hard surface without protective gear could prove hazardous. Of course the skate park at the beach is rock hard concrete and I haven't heard of any serious injuries there.

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