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Ashland's rotary ice rink to open Valentine's Day

for the Mail Tribune

ASHLAND — The Rotary Centennial Ice Rink will open with gala events across from Lithia Park on Feb. 14 for a monthlong trial run before weather prohibits its operation.

The run will allow parks officials to work out the bugs before the rink opens for a full season just after Thanksgiving, says Ashland Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson.

Robertson said the rink, formerly the Darex Family Ice Rink, was renovated at a cost of about $200,000. The city paid for half; the other half was funded by a $50,000, five-year grant from the Ashland Rotary Club and a $50,000 insurance settlement after a tree fell on the old rink in 2007.

The renovated rink will run on 25 percent less energy, in part because the five miles of coolant coils have been embedded in a five-inch cement slab. It will cost $10,000 less annually for set-up and tear-down, said Robertson.

Rotary donated $25,000 for the new rink and an additional $5,000 over five years toward a concession stand, rental booth and restrooms.

The renovated rink gets its name from the centennial of both the Rotary Club and the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department. Parks officials want to run the rink this year to mid-March, two weeks after normal closing, to find out if it can keep ice solid at temperatures well above freezing — with 60 degrees being the goal, said Robertson.

The original Darex Family rink ran 11 years, but cooling tubing began to deteriorate and the fallen tree destroyed the canopy. A new canopy is a long-range fundraising goal, Robinson said.

"It served the community well. It was part of our winter ambience, but this last year, we were holding it together with baling wire and chewing gum," he said.

Opening festivities will be from 4 to 9 p.m. on Valentine's Day, with ribbon-cutting, dedication, skating exhibition, raffle for skating lessons and dance party with a DJ.

It's located on Winburn Way at Nutley, same as the old Darex Family rink.

Skating is $3 or $5 with skate rentals. For operating times, visit www.mailtribune.com/ashlandicerink. For more information, call 488-5340.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.