Denison Main Street Officials are working on plans to transform downtown Denison to a winter wonderland this November with the return of a public outdoor ice rink. This will be the second year that the city will host the rink following its debut on Black Friday last year.
Main Street Director Donna Dow, who helped coordinate the month-long event last year, said it proved to be a big success and more popular than the city initially anticipated. Dow said the rink is scheduled to open again this year on Black Friday, Nov. 24 and will remain open through Jan. 2. The rink is scheduled to be open from 4-10 p.m. on days schools are open and 1-10 p.m. on weekends and throughout the Christmas break.
“We had counted on having over 6,000 skaters, but in the end we saw more than 9,000 throughout,” Dow said of last year.
Dow first pitched the idea of Denison hosting an outdoor ice rink in late 2015, with initial approval for the project passing in early 2016. Dow said she got the idea after she helped organize a similar event in Durant about 10 years ago. Dow previously said that city hosted the rink for two years while she worked there.
The Main Street director said she is still soliciting sponsorships and grants in order to raise $50,000 for the project. Currently, Dow said she has raised $25,000 toward that goal. Among the funding sources, Dow said she was pursuing a $7,500 grant through the Elias & Hanna Regensburger Foundation.
Dow said many of the changes to the rink this year are designed to smooth out and resolve issues that came about last year. New programs and activities are still being discussed, including themed night, classroom parties and other additions, she said.
Organizers plan to increase the number of skates in stock this year after lines developed for more common sizes in 2016. That led to delays, with some skaters waiting for a pair of rental skates.
Dow added that the waiver system will also be automated, and that repeat visitors will be able to use the same waiver throughout the season. Previously, skaters had to fill out a paper waiver during each visit.
Lastly, organizers plan to move activities that were hosted by library staff from the SNAP Center to a tent closer to the venue. Last year, the activities were isolated and did not get as much attention as was hoped, Dow said.
“Having done it for the first time, we had a lot of unknowns,” Dow said. “So, we are trying to pace ourselves more this year.”
In addition to raising funds for the project, Dow said she is working to reduce the costs for the ice rink by recruiting a larger volunteer force to help staff the event. This will reduce the need for paid staffers for the event.
For this year’s event, Denison Main Street will partner with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to help operate the ice rink. Parks and Recreation Director Chris Mobley said he will likely have five to seven paid staff members working during each shift, but these staffers will be focused on the operational side and setup.
Mobley said this will be the first time he has hosted such an event. While he pitched the idea during his tenure with Sugarland, Mobley said he was not successful in getting it launched.