Outdoor ice rink will help RIT embrace winter

Open skating offered in January, weather depending

A. Sue Weisler

Workers assemble an outdoor skating rink on the tennis courts alongside the Gene Polisseni Center. Skating is expected to be offered Tuesday and Thursday evenings in January if the weather cooperates

Now that the first snowflakes have graced the region, colder temperatures will enable the Rochester Institute of Technology community to enjoy outdoor ice skating as weather permits at the start of the spring semester in January.

A reusable rink, 104 feet by 64 feet, was erected shortly before Thanksgiving on the tennis courts next to the Gene Polisseni Center. A plastic liner was placed on boards and filled with 15,000 gallons of water, simulating a shallow pool in the rink. The tennis court windscreens will help keep the wind to a minimum for skaters and the rink is secured by a metal fence. A tent will be set up where visitors wanting to skate can show their RIT ID for admission.

LED rope lights will be strung alongside the rink, and music will play when the rink is open.

“We’re looking forward to providing a fun, outdoor activity,” said Chris Terwilliger, associate director of Club Sports and Intramurals. “Right now, we’re targeting open skating Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 6 to 9 p.m. That may change depending on the demand and the weather. Being a real ice outdoor rink, we are unfortunately at the mercy of the weather to have ice.”

During the day, he said the sun will often melt the top layer of ice, making it unsafe to skate when the temperature is above freezing.

The skating will be free, but visitors will need to bring their own skates, Terwilliger said.

There could be skating prior to January if the weather cooperates and the interest is there, he said.

“We want to see the scope of engagement to see if it makes sense,” he said. “We could get two weeks in and try an afternoon or morning, and also the possibility to do some programing or have some hockey.”

Posts announcing when the rink will be open will be on the RIT Recreation Facebook page.

He said the discussion of an outdoor skating rink began last year in the height of the pandemic, when more outdoor activities were being explored, especially in the winter. They consulted with the Town of Greece, which has operated an outdoor skating rink for years.

David Stevens, director of RIT’s Center for Recreational Sports, is credited for spearheading the idea, and several students and staff members helped install the rink. Six or eight students will also be employed to work at the rink, opening and closing it, shoveling snow, and maintaining the ice.

“We have equipment to treat the ice,” Terwilliger said. If the ice melts and refreezes, it will resurface itself. But if there are a lot of dings and nicks in the ice, workers, in a Zamboni-like function, can walk with a hose and squeegee to resurface the ice.

The rink is reusable, so plans are to have outdoor skating on campus every winter, Terwilliger said.

“If we can get a dozen skates and a few hundred students, faculty, staff, and alumni using it, it will be a successful year,” he said.

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