Three Outdoor Skating Rinks in Grand Rapids to Open Soon

An old wading pool at Cherry Park is filled to the brim with water that’s icing over as volunteers prepare one of three temporary skating rinks set to open this month. Volunteers also were building a rink Wednesday at Wilcox Park in Eastown and Thursday at Richmond Park on the city’s West Side.

Given a weather forecast calling for temperatures to plunge into single digits next week, the rinks should be open for skating by the last weekend in January.

“I didn’t think I’d be wishing for cold weather,” said Rachel Lee, executive director of the East Hills Council of Neighbors. “All the neighbors have taken this on saying ‘We’re going to make this happen.’

“Cherry Park is open year-round and the ice rink is going to show people it’s open year round. We have a 4-season neighborhood.”

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks has built a temporary ice rink the past few years at Richmond Park for annual WinterWest activities. This winter, following voter approval of a 0.98-mill, 7-year parks tax, the non-profit is teaming with neighborhood associations to open two more skating rinks.

-ddf22f61ced3ca37.jpgCherry Park Ice Rink  

The rinks, if they prove popular, could prompt Grand Rapids to install permanent versions at parks around the city. Among the planned expenditures of the parks-tax revenue: splash pads, and those perhaps could be designed to double as winter skating rinks.

“Ideally, this could be just a taste of what could be,” said Kyle Van Strien, project coordinator for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

The rink at Cherry Park is 2,400 square-feet of ice atop the old wading pool that’s scheduled for removal. The rink boundaries were built last weekend and a lining was installed Monday. A garden hose then filled the pool for a couple days. A grand opening is planned 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, with treats and a snowman-building contest.

The rink at Wilcox Park, flooded Wednesday in about an hour-and-a-half by the Grand Rapids Fire Department, is larger and more elongated than the squarish one at Cherry Park. That rink is suitable for hockey as well as skating.

“With Aquinas (College) right through the woods there’s a lot of students wanting to play hockey there,” Van Strien said.

The Richmond Park rink, which measures about 75 feet by 35 feet, is planned for the WinterWest Festival that starts Friday, Jan. 24.

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