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City adds outdoor skating rink to Thompson Park

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Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith remembered the days when skating rinks were opened at Thompson Park and several schools throughout the city.

Now, after decades, outdoor ice skating finally will return to Thompson Park.

Parks and Recreation Department employees have made a 50-by-100-foot ice rink near the pool house. It opens today.

“I think it’s an opportunity to get interest in the park in the winter. It will give kids and families an activity. It’s better than playing video games indoors,” Mr. Smith said. “And it’s free.”

When skaters get too cold, they can retreat to the pool bathhouse, where they can warm up or use the restrooms. A Parks Department employee will staff those facilities only from 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

Skate rentals will not be available.

But there will be lights for nighttime skating. Music will be played on speakers that have been placed outdoors.

“We’ve been planning this since last summer,” Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Erin E. Gardner said.

Working in bitterly cold weather in recent days, parks employees used garden hoses to flood patches of open space to create the 3-inch-thick sheet of ice.

Last winter, they tried to make an outdoor skating rink at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, but the weather did not cooperate and the ice quickly melted, Mr. Smith said. This time, Thompson Park — where the traffic circle in front was one of the most popular places to skate in the city years ago — was chosen.

“It gives people on both sides of town a place to skate,” Mrs. Gardner said.

For decades, the city opened several outdoor ice rinks on athletic fields at schools and neighborhood playgrounds.

A large rink at the old Case Junior High School that featured boards and lights for night skating was popular with skaters. Other rinks were at the Knickerbocker and Sherman elementary schools, Mr. Smith recalled.

“I remember getting out of school and going down to Knickerbocker to play hockey,” he said.

But the outdoor rinks became history because of budget cuts and the availability of the indoor rink at the fairgrounds arena.

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