County residents will be enjoying the rec district’s synthetic ice rink for many years to come after the board of directors approved purchasing it last week.
The Clear Creek Metropolitan Recreation District initially rented the rink, which cost about $70,000, including equipment and staff time. Purchasing it is another $57,000, but staff members said Jan. 27 they were confident that the rink will pay for itself by September 2022.
Along with the purchase, the district’s board of directors also unanimously approved renting ice bumper cars, which will cost about $7,000 initially with a revenue-share agreement afterward. The district will have eight bumper cars for at least 30 days starting in late February.
In its first month, the Frozen Fire Ice Rink at Golddigger Field had 1,500 users, including 1,000 during winter break, project lead Samantha Dhyne said. Booking rates were 90-100% over the break, she described, and CCMRD’s also seeing strong private rental numbers.
Overall, in its first five weeks, the rink had $14,000 in revenues and $25,000 in donations.
While most feedback has been positive, Dhyne said users’ biggest complaint and staff’s biggest challenge has been the synthetic ice surface.
Dhyne said multiple factors played a part:
Because of its location on Golddigger Field, the wind blows a lot of dirt onto the rink, which makes it difficult to clean. Also, because of the south-facing exposure, warm weather seems to make the surface less slippery.
The district ran low on a special care solution and when it tried to reorder, the shipment got held up in New Jersey for several weeks.
Because bookings were full over winter break, it was difficult to block out times to clean and treat the surface.
“I’m not kidding when I said the maintenance has been challenging,” Dhyne continued. “We’ve worked really hard to remedy (the situation).”
Dhyne also suggested that saying “ice rink” in all the advertising gave people the wrong impression, and she will ensure future marketing efforts emphasize that the surface is synthetic.
The board members initially felt the district had been backed into a corner on whether to buy the rink in January, when it could apply more of the rental price toward purchase. They suggested waiting another month to do a user survey, but that would cost an extra $13,000 to purchase the rink.
“The problem with the data is that two weeks of Christmas vacation help us build a case for it,” new board member Scott Yard said. “A regular month would give us a better idea of what the rink is capable of.”
Something that seemed to ease their concerns was hearing that Idaho Springs officials are interested in hosting the rink downtown near Citizens Park over Thanksgiving, with Dhyne saying, “People might be more forgiving of it being small and synthetic if it’s downtown.”
She explained that the City Council will host a work session with CCMRD staff to determine whether and how that could work, adding that Mayor Mike Hillman at least seemed supportive of the idea.
“A downtown skating rink sounds great for our community,” Yard said.
Secretary Marcie King commented that she was worried the rink would be a novelty — popular one season and forgotten the next. However, if the rink eventually moves to Citizens Park or the Shelly/Quinn Ballfields, both of which are shadier and colder, she said, “I would probably take the risk to keep it.”
Vice President Tom Harvey said he felt Dhyne and her team had done such a great job that if the district continued investing in it, the rink would be successful.
New adventures and opportunities
Now that the rec district has the rink for good, Dhyne said the possibilities for additional revenues are plentiful, starting with the ice bumper cars.
The district will be renting eight cars for 30 days initially with the possibility for a longer rental.
Along with a $5,000 origination fee and $600 transportation fee, CCMRD also needs $1,100 to buy an annual state license, similar to what amusement parks have. Dhyne is also budgeting another $300 for miscellaneous materials.
Once introduced, a 15-minute ride will be $8, and revenues will be split 50-50 between the district and the company.
Also, now that it’s buying the rink, CCMRD can host year-round events and camps on the rink, Dhyne commented, and in the summer, it can cover the synthetic ice to make it a roller-skating rink.
It can also offer other activities on Golddigger Field, such as mini-golf, bounce houses and expanded concessions, so that people can spend an entire afternoon there, she described.
Additionally, CCMRD will continue to host community skate nights and will introduce monthly family discount days starting Feb. 27. Now that CCMRD owns the rink, Dhyne said she’ll focus more on what programming the community wants to see.