There will soon be at least one aspect of the Colonial Fort of Mobile that won’t be historically accurate: a large synthetic ice skating rink.
Workers at the fort have already begun to install the rink for visitors to the fort, moving the activity away from Cooper Riverside Park and city control.
“Hopefully, it’ll be open the day after Thanksgiving,” Activation Management co-owner Scott Tindle said. “It will continue through March 4.”
The late closing means the rink will remain open through some of downtown’s biggest events, including Mardi Gras, Tindle said.
Activation Management bought the self-lubricating polymer rink only after Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office announced Riverside Ice would not be happening.
“We would not have decided to do the rink if they did,” Tindle said.
The previous two years Stimpson’s office has sponsored a rink at Cooper Riverside Park. Stimpson made the announcement after canceling the annual Christmas parade because of a lack of funds in 2014. Despite getting enough sponsorships to make the rental of the rink basically cost neutral, there were complaints that the outdoor rink became slushy in the sun. Rain also prevented the rink from being open for several days in 2015. The total cost of the rink was $132,000. Most of that money was reimbursed through more than 20 corporate sponsorships. In the first two weeks it was open in 2015, Riverside Ice attracted 83 skaters per day.
Councilman Levon Manzie, who represents the downtown area, said he was pleased a private entity is taking over the activity.
“I’m happy to see that it will continue,” Manzie said. “There’s certainly a market for it.”
In 2016, the city rented a rink with a larger chiller to help prevent slush, but there were still issues.
The fort’s synthetic ice will not have that issue, Tindle said. The large rink can accommodate 40 to 50 skaters at a time and the same material is used by National Hockey League teams for practice rinks. He said he hopes to continue the city’s success.
The cost for skating at the fort’s rink will be $15 for adults and $10 for children. Tindle said parents who don’t want to pay for skating but want to watch their kids do it can get into the fort for free.
Carol Hunter, spokeswoman for Downtown Mobile Alliance, said she believes the rink will be a popular attraction because there will be no slush this time around.
“There will be no worry about warm weather,” she said. “There also won’t be the expense from the chiller to keep the ice frozen.”
The fort’s access will also be better than at Cooper Riverside Park, Hunter said.
“One of the concerns through the feedback we received was [Riverside Ice] was a little hard to get to,” she said. “Water Street is kind of a barrier.”
In addition to the new rink, Activation Management is in the process of opening up a restaurant inside the fort, Tindle said. He described Sylvia’s as a biscuit and po’boy place developed, in part, by the owner of The Noble South.
In addition to the rink, the fort will sponsor other holiday events, such as a breakfast with Santa and brunch with the Grinch, Tindle said.
The city recently released a holiday calendar of events. The holiday-themed events include: a showing of “The Muppet Christmas Carol” at Cathedral Square on Friday, Dec. 1, 5:30-8 p.m.; a lighted boat parade on Dog River on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m.; a holiday market and art bazaar at Mobile Botanical Gardens on Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Elfapalooza on Friday, Dec. 8, from 5-7 p.m.