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Ice rink survives; roof is gone

Despite losing its roof to a winter storm last month, the Darex Family Ice Rink will most likely be back next skating season.

"We are going to keep the rink," said Ashland Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson. "Just without the roof."

On Feb. 22, a snow squall that dumped several inches of snow on Ashland also toppled an oak tree into the skating center on Winburn Way.

"In essence it crushed the roof," Robertson said. "The branches punctured the fabric and the framework was a complete loss."

Rather than immediately replacing the roof, which would cost in the neighborhood of $200,000, Robertson said the rink will operate without a cover next season.

"If it's a cold, clear evening it's going to be gorgeous," he said. "If it's raining fewer people are going to want to skate."

The roof, Robertson explained, also helps to insulate the ice. So operating the rink without the roof will also result in fewer opportunities to enjoy the rink. "We know the roof gives us more skating days," Robertson said, noting that the rink operated without a roof for its first few seasons. "Sun and wind create a melt-off effect on the ice."

The ice rink closed about 10 days early due to the roof collapse, which cost 14 employees wages.

"Some of [the employees] are trying to pay for college," he said.

In addition to losing its roof, the ice rink also suffers from aging ice coils. The coils are the plastic tubing under the surface that forms the ice, according to Roberston.

"We anticipate we will need to do some repairs on the coils," he said. But until the coils are unravelled at the onset of the skating season, which starts a few days before Thanksgiving, the parks department will not know how many coils need to be replaced. Roberston likened the aging coils to rubber belts in a car that is not driven.

"We're dealing with plastic tubing," he said. "There is repetitive wear that occurs. If you don't drive a car for a while the belts get hard and crack. It's the same thing that happens to these coils."

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission considered spending $50,000 for a new set of coils but decided instead to replace them individually rather than spending a large sum at once.

"We don't want to spend the money until we know we have to," Robertson said, adding that he doesn't anticipate that faulty coils could shut down skating next season.

The parks department is currently looking into grant opportunities or private donations to fix both the coils and the roof.

Roberston said the parks commission would consider adding a sponsors name to the ice rink, which is already sponsored by Darex Corporation, an Ashland company that makes custom tools and screws. Darex made a donation several years ago that gave them the right to have their name associated with the rink. If a second donor's name is added, Darex would have to grant permission first, Robertson said.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or .