City workers are working feveriously to repair leaks in the refrigeration lines at the municipal ice skating rink last week, to insure that the ice will be ready when the rink opens for the annual Holiday Stroll December 11th. (Photo/Ernest A. Brown)
WOONSOCKET â€“ If itâ€™s been a few years since youâ€™ve laced up a pair of skates and theyâ€™re just sitting in the attic gathering dust, Woonsocket Parks and Recreation Director Elizabeth Kerrigan will be more than glad to take them off your hands.
In anticipation of re-opening the cityâ€™s municipal ice skating rink at River Island Park, the Parks and Recreation Department is accepting donations of new and used ice skates to provide families that do not have skates the ability to still use the rink, which is free and open to the public.
â€śThe ice rink is almost complete, and now we need the weather to cooperate to make the ice,â€ť says Kerrigan. â€śAnd with ice comes the need for donated skates.â€ť
Hundreds of skaters are expected to use the rink during the winter months - including lots of folks from out-of-town - and with the popularity of the rink growing each year, so is the need for donated used skates, which are rented at no charge on a first-come, first-serve basis.
â€śMenâ€™s and boysâ€™ skates are most in need, but girlsâ€™ and womenâ€™s skates are always needed as well,â€ť says Kerrigan. â€śWe will happily take donations throughout the season.â€ť
People interested in donating either new or used ice skates can drop them off at the rink any time there is an attendant on hand, or they can bring them to the Parks Department office at City Hall or the recycling facility on River Street during business hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Donated skates can also be dropped off at the recycling center on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Now, itâ€™s just a matter of waiting for a good old-fashioned New England cold snap to start making artificial ice at the rink.
Kerrigan says she is hopeful the rink will be ready for use in time for the Holiday Stroll next Wednesday, but itâ€™s up to Mother Nature.
"It depends on the weather and temperatures have to be cold enough," Kerrigan explains. â€śWe need three to four days of sustained overnight temperatures in the teens and daytime temperatures at or below freezing.â€ť
Colder weather is expected to arrive as early as Sunday, with the National Weather Service forecasting daytime temperatures in the lower to mid-30s, but whether the mercury dips low enough to make artificial ice remains to be seen.
Getting the rink ready has been a three-week project that included setting up the A-frame and boards, laying out the sand, rolling out the network of tubing that carries the glycol, pressure testing, and checking and repairing leaks in the tubing. Glycol is an antifreeze-type substance that flows through the tubing beneath the surface of the ice and keeps it from melting in slightly above-freezing temperatures.
This will be the municipal ice skating rinkâ€™s 14th season.
Completed in 1999, the rink is smaller than a typical hockey rink, and a refrigeration system keeps the ice hard during warm weather. Hockey playing is not allowed, but music keeps the skating fun. While the cold weather lasts, the rink will be open every day from 12:30 to 9:30 p.m.
As for now, public works crews are on standby waiting for the Arctic air to arrive so they can begin spraying layer after layer of water to build up the required three-and-a-half inches of ice that is needed.
â€śOur goal is to have it open for the Holiday Stroll Dec. 11, but weâ€™re just going to have to see what the weather brings,â€ť Kerrigan said.
(Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7)