No ice rink in Elgin's Civic Center Plaza this year, officials say
After uncertainty last month, city officials confirmed there will be no ice skating rink this year in Elgin but clarified that the winter attraction could return to its traditional spot at Civic Center Plaza in the future.
The ice rink can't be set up at the plaza this winter because of upcoming construction, including water main relocation, HVAC upgrades for city hall and improvements at the plaza. The annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony was moved to Festival Park for the same reason.
The city council gave the initial thumbs-up last month to a $1.7 million renovation for the 46,000-square-foot plaza that would include new concrete and sidewalks, upgraded lighting and landscaping, and a bike station. There are additional, more expensive features on the table, such as an outdoor performance space. The council is expected to evaluate a final design in December. The work would start early next year and finish before 2021 if all goes smoothly.
There is nothing that would preclude the ice rink at Civic Center Plaza in future years, even with the redesign, Assistant City Manager Laura Valdez said Wednesday. "Proposed new chillers on city hall's HVAC and the new surface at the Civic Plaza will be able to accommodate an ice-skating rink," she said.
However, the city might have to consider getting another ice rink because the current one is aging and replacement parts and chemicals that assist with the freezing process are difficult to find, Valdez said.
Mayor David Kaptain said he would have liked to discuss potentially relocating the ice rink before a decision was made not to bring it back this winter. "It kind of came as a surprise to me," he said.
Residents value the amenity, Kaptain said. "Back when we did budget cuts (in 2011) one of the things cut was the skating rink (for one season), and that was one of the two top items the public wanted back. The other was the fireworks," he said.
Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger said it's important to preserve the outdoor sporting tradition in Elgin.
"Many of us grew up skating on the Lords Park lagoon or at a rink at Wing Park. We need to encourage outdoor recreation all year, and this is a favorite and cost-effective option for many."
In the last six years, the ice rink had an average 3,575 visits, operating at a loss of $9,156 yearly plus costs for energy and staff time, Valdez said. Moving it to a different location would cost about $35,000 because it would require a chiller, plus the cost of a crane, landscape and site restoration if needed, she said.
Councilman Toby Shaw said it made sense to pause the ice skating program this winter. "In future years, we have the opportunity to pursue other options based on resident feedback."
Councilwoman Rose Martinez said she feels bad that the city can't provide an ice rink this year, but it's important to consider costs. "I realize many people enjoy that. It's something that you don't find in many places."