It has been a successful start to the holiday season for some of Mobile’s new riverside attractions. GulfQuest is closing in on 15,000 guests and Riverside Ice is beating expectations, according to Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office.
Through Nov. 29, the rink at Cooper Riverside Park, operated by Magic Ice LLC, has seen no fewer than 83 skaters per day on the 12 days it has been open. But that figure is low compared to the 495 guests per day the rink is averaging. The city had hoped to average about 200 skaters per day, in order for it to be revenue neutral.
“It’s hard to have expectations in the first year,” city spokeswoman Laura Byrne said. “We felt positive we’d have a good turnout.”
A total of 5,938 skaters took to the ice between Nov. 12 and Nov. 29, Byrne said. At that clip, and accounting for a possible 2-to-1 ratio of children to adults, the rink has generated about $55,000 of the initial $132,000 contract with Magic Ice. The contract did not include the cost of utilities to the city. Byrne said the city does not have an estimate for the utility costs since this is the first year for the outdoor skating rink, and won’t know the cost until after it closes in January.
Sponsorships, including one from title sponsor Airbus, have helped pay for about $80,000 of the initial contract, Stimpson’s office previously reported.
The rink was closed Monday, Nov. 16, until the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 20, because of inclement weather. It saw its largest number of visitors on Tuesday, Nov. 24, when 763 came to skate. Its low point was 83 on the Monday it was closed early.
Rink manager Liz Egetoe said turnout has been “phenomenal” and with the approaching Christmas atmosphere and figure skating beginning to get more television airtime, it should only get better. She said she’s also been surprised by locals’ aptitude on the ice.
“I’m actually impressed,” Egetoe said. “A lot of … guests have really taken to it.”
Cooper Riverside Park is one of 40 to 60 Magic Ice rink locations around the country. Some are as far south as Puerto Rico, she said.
She said Mobile’s unseasonably high temperatures have not really been a problem in maintaining a favorable skating surface, as pipes underneath the rink keep the ice solid. Wind is a bigger factor, she said. As of late, the sun has also been an issue, leaving a layer of water on top of the 2-inch-thick slab of ice, Byrne said. But even with the water, the rink is allegedly safe for skating.
The rink can be rented by the hour. Magic Ice also offers lessons for $1 per minute. Egetoe said the lessons have really “taken hold,” as well as birthday party rentals.
Open since Sept. 26 in Cooper Riverside Park, GulfQuest is nearing 15,000 visitors, spokeswoman Diana Brewer said. With winter break approaching, Brewer said the museum is beginning to reach one of its busy seasons.
“We’re excited to start seeing things pick up,” she said. “Word of mouth has been spreading because we’re getting a lot of people through the door saying they heard about it.”
She attributed part of the uptick to TripAdvisor listing GulfQuest as one of the top 10 attractions in Mobile. She also gave credit to the temporary berth of the 16th century replica Spanish ship El Galeón, which was docked beside the museum Nov. 20-29 and increased GulfQuest attendance “100 percent.”
Visitors who had paid admission to the ship tour got $2 off the price of admission to the museum, Brewer said.