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Everyone will go skating

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published February 11. 2011 4:00AM

It may be for the best that plans for an ice skating rink at the downtown Parade in New London got put on hold this winter.

Probably it wasn't the best weather, after all, to roll out a new outdoor attraction.

A lot of us have already seen more ice than we care to this year.

Still, it seems like a good idea for the new Parade, something to attract people, after the concert season, already a proven success, winds down. It could be New London's Rockefeller Center.

Apparently, plans are still being considered by New London Main Street to get things ready by next season. If we're all lucky, downtown New London skating will eventually be unveiled in a more normal winter season.

That's not to say there aren't other skating venues in the region, some already here and some others in the making. In fact, there are so many skating rinks open or being planned, you wonder why it suddenly seems so popular, as if there were a new reality TV skating show driving interest.

This winter, MGM at Foxwoods unveiled a new outdoor skating rink, inviting ex-Boston Bruins star Rick Middleton for an inaugural spin around the ice. It's been open for public skates ever since. A Valentine's two-for-one special is running this weekend.

The impressive indoor rink at Connecticut College is open Sundays for public skating, $5 for adults and $3 for kids.

The public is also welcome, of course, at the Norwich Ice Rink. Norwich voters approved a $3 million bond appropriation back in the late 1990s for construction of the big rink.

Another major rink could also be possible in Stonington.

The Stonington Community Center recently disclosed the idea of building a full-sized, hockey-scale rink behind the center's main building near the viaduct into Stonington Borough.

Jim Truscio, executive director of the center, told me they will probably make a decision within a few months on whether to proceed with the planning stages for a rink, an investigation that would look at costs and the feasibility of a successful capital campaign.

The investment would be a big one for such a small nonprofit. The center's annual operating budget is not much more than $1 million, and the cost of the kind of rink being contemplated could come close to that or exceed it.

Truscio said they are thinking generally about an indoor rink that would have removable doors or siding, so that it would have an indoor/outdoor environment. It could be planned to be used for skating in winter and other sports, like lacrosse, volleyball or league indoor soccer, the rest of the year, Truscio said.

"We are certainly not going to jump into a project like this unless we are sure we can sustain it," he said.

Stonington might have luck with a capital campaign after all. It seems skating rink generosity is rampant around here.

The rink at Connecticut College was built after a single large donor stepped forward with the idea. In Westerly last year, a donor paid $55,000 for a temporary rink at the YMCA there.

In Norwich, the ice rink remains a skating facility all year. Until now, it has generally sustained itself, although city finance officials say they may be forced to put some rink-related costs into the city budget this year.

In New London, where plans seem to be evolving, the latest idea is to rent a small rink, which would be erected temporarily in the Parade area.

It seems that might be the most pleasant venue of all, for the casual skater, with views of the surrounding downtown skyline and even the river. There are also lots of post-skating entertainment opportunities.

Who knows, given all the interest just here, maybe it's true elsewhere, and there will even be a popular skating reality show on the air by then.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

David Collins

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