LANSING – For years, Lansing residents and families have been searching for new ways to have fun in the state’s capital city, especially during the winter season.
In efforts to promote a safe method for people to enjoy the outdoors while exercising, the City of Lansing and the Community Foundation announced on Jan. 26 that they are opening a synthetic ice rink in the City Hall Plaza in downtown Lansing.
“With COVID-19, we know that people are looking for outdoor recreation for their physical and mental health,” Brett Kraschinske, the city’s Parks and Recreation Director, said. “We were able to collaborate with the Community Foundation to promote activities, events, and place-making along the capital’s riverfront.”
The Community Foundation is a non-profit organization in the Capital Region that helps create a lively community with the help of several donors that help fund city projects.
The ice rink will be located on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Capitol Avenue, according to the city’s press release.
The Department of Parks and Recreation of Lansing will manage the 3,300-square-foot rink. The city had said that the rink would be available by mid-February, but there was no evidence of construction as of Feb. 15.
The city strives to support local businesses, according to Kraschinske.
“We are still looking if we will get a concession booth to operate the ice rink, rent skates, and bring local food trucks,” he said.
The ice rink will be synthetic, primarily due to the constant changes in weather conditions in mid-Michigan.
Synthetic ice is typically used as an alternative to natural ice because of the lack of electricity needed for refrigeration. It is made of high-density polyethylene, which creates a low friction surface, according to Interesting Engineering.
“The other reason why we were looking at the synthetic ice rink is that it is low maintenance and it is not weather dependent,” Kraschinske said. “We will be able to have the rink open when temperatures rise above the freezing point.”
The last time the Parks and Recreation Department set up a natural ice rink was two years ago on Washington Avenue, Kaschinske said, and the city only got around 30 good days of solid ice.
As far as safety is concerned amid the ongoing pandemic, Ingham County’s Health Officer, Linda Vail said, “It is safe as long as the rink does not exceed capacity and enforces the health guidelines.”
Kaschinske said face masks are going to be required to be worn at all times.
Laurie Baumer, the executive vice president of the Community Foundation, said the rink’s capacity will be limited to 66 people.
According to The New York Times’ Coronavirus tracker, Michigan’s daily cases have decreased 26 percent in the last two weeks since Feb. 2. Although outdoor activities are considered a “low-risk activity”, it is imperative that the proper safety protocols take place in all outdoor venues, including mask-wearing and social distancing.
“The Community Foundation is in close contact with Ingham County’s health department and their guidelines that will be displayed around the facility,” Baumer said. “We are in the process of creating signs that reflect the state of Michigan’s capacity rules during COVID-19.”
The Community Foundation worked closely with the City of Lansing to support the community that is “hungry to do safe, fun things outside of their homes,” according to Baumer. The ice rink was “something that we could do rather quickly.”
The project also required funding from outside sponsors.
“We have seven sponsors that have stepped up to provide funding to defray the costs,” Baumer said.
Kraschinske is confident that the ice rink will be successful in the coming years even if residents do not get a long time to enjoy it this winter due to its late start.
“It will be a short season this year because of the timing with COVID-19 so we are looking forward to introducing now and start earlier in the season next winter.”