Syracuse synthetic ice rink sits in storage for 2nd consecutive winter

Tuesday , January 02, 2018 - 5:00 AM1 comment

MARK SAAL, Standard-Examiner Staff

SYRACUSE — This ice doesn’t melt, but it did go away for a couple of years.

Three winters ago, Syracuse City purchased a synthetic ice rink and set it up in the parking lot of the Syracuse Town Center shopping complex, at Antelope Drive and 2000 West. The 40-foot-by-60-foot rink consisted of dozens of interlocking sections of half-inch-thick plastic, coated with what is basically an extremely slippery food additive.

One city official described it “like a big cutting board.”

At the time, it was believed to be the first public synthetic ice rink in the state. And by all accounts, the rink was a success — popular among residents, and relatively inexpensive for the city to buy, build and maintain.

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The synthetic rink cost the city just shy of $25,000; a refrigerated ice rink would have been at least four or five times that much, according to city officials.

And the fake rink was so popular that first winter that — although scheduled to close Feb. 14 — city officials talked of extending the skating season into March. They also considered increasing the synthetic sheet’s length by another 20 feet.

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But since then? The short-lived Syracuse artificial-ice rink seems to have fallen through the cracks.

Syracuse City Manager Brody Bovero confirmed the rink hasn’t been set up in either of the last two winters. He says the city hopes to find a suitable home for the rink by next winter.

Bovero says the inaugural year of the synthetic rink went “really well.” But the following year the city needed to move the rink somewhere it would be easier to set up.

“If we already had a concrete pad that was flat and straight, we could probably lay out the rink in a day — or even part of a day — because the pieces just snap together,” Bovero said.

However, the ground beneath the rink at the Syracuse Town Center was soft, and had a tendency to move with the freeze and thaw cycles, Bovero said. So workers had to build a stable, level wooden deck upon which to assemble the ice rink, which took a couple of weeks.

The first year, the city used in-house labor to build the deck and assemble the rink.

“Winter came late, so the public works guys who normally would be plowing snow, we had them available to build it,” Bovero said. “But the second year we needed to move it to a place where it was easier to set up because we didn’t have a lot of resources approved by the council to pay someone to set it up every year.”

Bovero says ice and snow aren’t good for a synthetic ice surface, so they went looking for a covered area. As a result, in the winter of 2015-16, the ice rink was placed underneath the pavilion at Founders Park, near Syracuse Elementary School.

“The problem was, it was kind of hidden, so a lot of people didn’t see it,” he said. “So it didn’t go as well the second year.”

Then, last year, the city council thought it had found the ideal place to install the rink. Bovero says they worked out a deal with The Rush Funplex, a local amusement center at 1806 S. 2000 West, to set up the rink there for the 2016-17 skating season.

“But The Rush got behind in the holiday season and they never got around to putting it up” he said. “So this year, what the council is doing is trying to decide what to do with the rink for next year.”

The two possible options, according to Bovero, are either again trying to work something out with The Rush Funplex or moving the ice rink to Centennial Park, at 1800 South and 2000 West.

“We have some improvements planned for Centennial Park, which includes a splash pad in the summer, and we might be able to put the ice rink out there in the winter,” he said.

Bovero says the city simply hasn’t been able to sink enough resources into the rink “to really make it what it could be,” because there are higher priorities in the city’s parks. So instead, the ice sheet sits in storage somewhere. But Bovero he hopes to see the return of the Syracuse Ice Rink for the winter of 2018-19.

“We’ve learned a few things, we’re just trying to find a permanent home for it — whether it’s Centennial Park, or The Rush, or somewhere here in the downtown area,” he said.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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