Recent warmer temperatures force removal of natural ice

By Don Nelson

Expectations for a full season of skating at the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink (WISR) have turned to frustration after repeated delays in delivery of the refrigeration equipment that will complete the facility’s renovation.

After repeated assurances — dating back to mid-December  — from the company that is supplying the ice-making equipment that delivery was imminent, WISR board president Jill Calvert now says the chiller may arrive from Texas by early next week.

Installation of the equipment, and then laying down a usable ice surface, will take up to two weeks, Calvert said  — so an early February debut for the new surface may be possible.

Meanwhile, the rink is closed because recent warm weather has caused the existing ice  — which was made the old-fashioned way by flooding the concrete surface so the facility could open on Christmas Day  — to deteriorate. It will be removed in anticipation of the refrigeration equipment arriving.

“We have no choice but to remove the ice,” Calvert said.

There’s still a chance to salvage what’s left of the skating season, Calvert said.

“If we get a chiller, we can go into March with our season,” Calvert said. “If we don’t get the chiller, the season is over because we won’t have enough time to make natural ice.”

The rink’s closure “ruins the Martin Luther King holiday weekend,” Calvert said. The rink was also scheduled to be open for free skating on Backyard Ski Day  — Friday (Jan. 22)  — but now that won’t be possible. “I feel terrible about it,” Calvert said.

Calvert said communication with the company that is supplying the refrigeration equipment has been erratic and difficult, and getting confirmation on delivery has been elusive.

The rink opened to enthusiastic crowds on Christmas Day and business had been brisk before the temperatures began to climb, making it problematic to maintain the natural ice surface. That won’t be an issue with the refrigeration equipment installed.

The rink is owned by the Town of Winthrop and operated under contract by the nonprofit WISR board. State grants and local contributions of labor and materials to build the rink, and to later add new facilities and the refrigeration equipment, come to about $1 million.