Time, temperature and changing lifestyles took their toll on Mill Creek Park's ice rink
Since its founding in 1891, Mill Creek Park has offered Mahoning Valley families a unique wealth of natural and designed features to be enjoyed throughout the four seasons. To accommodate ice skaters, the park built an outdoor, artificially refrigerated skating rink in the Wick Recreation Area in 1968.
Outdoor ice rinks have a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years. From 1992 to the rink's last season in 2001, over 156,000 was allocated to the repair and replacement of the rink's equipment. Thanks to excellent maintenance and management practices, the ice rink served the public for 34 seasons.
Several factors impacted ice rink operations and the demand for outdoor skating. In the early 1990s attendance figures remained steady with average attendance around 28,000. However, attendance fell significantly in the next decade; in 2001 only 7,019 people paid to use the facility.
Warming weather patterns greatly influenced attendance trends. Temperatures during December, January and February became inconsistent, making the creation and maintenance of ice difficult at best. Other factors that contributed to the decline in attendance include the increasing diversity of family activities, as well as increasing demands on an individual's time due to school, sports, other interests, and employment conflicts.
As attendance declined at the ice rink, operating income dwindled. After 1995 the park operated the rink at a loss. By 2000 and 2001 losses ran to 86,204 and 66,800 respectively. This was a loss of 10 in 2000 and 9.52 in 2001 for each skater who utilized the facility.
Since 1990 the park has been investigating replacement costs or alternatives for ice rink skating. The 2003 cost estimate to replace the rink and equipment, add a protective roof, and improve the building is slightly more than 1 million.
Due to lessening demand for outdoor skating, temperate weather patterns and high replacement costs, it was decided that it would not be fiscally responsible to build and operate a new outdoor skating facility. This was a difficult conclusion to reach, and one that was not taken lightly.
We are working hard to offer new and exciting recreational activities throughout the MetroParks. State-of-the-art snowmaking equipment has been added to sled hill in the Wick Recreation Area to enhance the visitor's experience. Thousands of sledders of all ages now enjoy this popular winter site each season.
M. VIRGINIA DAILEY, CARL NUNZIATO and RICK SHALE
Mill Creek Park Board of Commissioners