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Skating Towards a Vibrant Urban Winter

Campus Martius Park, downtown Detroit

To all the northern cities out there, there’s the question of how to make best use of parks during the winter months – or how to provide good fun winter activities. Ice rinks for general skating, figure skating hockey and broom ball are one such way. They run from the scraped away rink atop Minneapolis’ frozen Lake of the Isles, the water filled-and-frozen baseball fields and the downtown rink in Detroit’s Campus Martius. (Some cities, even in the South, also have indoor rinks.)

The Center for City Park Excellence has just posted a report showing the number of ice rinks in the nation’s 75 largest cities (note: these are the rinks reported as being owned and reported by the park agencies in those cities, so a few might be missing). The royalty of St. Paul’s Winter Carnival would be proud, as that city has the most indoor and outdoor ice rinks at 37, or about 13.5 for every 100,000 residents. Most cities do not have even close to this, or likely the need or same demand as these ice-loving cities. But even a few rinks can provide the places for people to enjoy the outdoors in the winter, stay active when cabin fever strikes, participate in winter recreational programs and, last but certainly not least, enliven urban spaces in the colder months — making the urban winter fun and vibrant. (The Project for Public Spaces Jay Walljasper wrote a whole article on how cities can make cold weather cool, including ice rinks, accompanying hot cocoa venders and other events and programming.

While some cities are able to fund ice rinks through their general appropriations, others looking to add ice rinks may wonder how to fund such efforts. In Philadelphia, the city just reached a deal to help fund three of its rinks with a local hockey-oriented non-profit. St. Paul has used corporate sponsorships to pay for one of its downtown ice rinks. Others charge a fee to recoup some of the costs.

3 Responses

  1. Yeah that list isn’t entirely accurate. Cincinnati at the very least has one (about the same size as the one at Rockefeller Center) every year that is set up on our main square – Fountain Square. It is used for the typical ice skating as well as a Broomball league and other events. Sometimes there is even another rink set up at a city park (can’t remember where though right now).

    You can find more information here:

    And some recent photos here:

  2. Thanks for the links. The list is what is reported to us by cities, so thanks for the additional information.

  3. Thought this recent article might be relevant. It is a ranking of the Top 10 Cheap Outdoor Skating Rinks by Trip Advisor.


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