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Ice rink a hit

The Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink's new protective cover pushed attendance up by 23 percent this winter, according to Ashland Parks and Recreation Department staff who operate the rink.

"It was a tremendous season. The feedback we got from the public was that the ice was great," said Parks Recreation Coordinator Lonny Flora.

Attendance hit 12,970 visits for recreational open skate periods, up from 10,510 visits last winter, Flora said.

The rink hosts a range of other events, including figure skating, hockey, lessons, school outings and birthday parties.

The rink opened in late November and closed on Sunday.

Workers set up the seasonal rink each year in a parking lot on Winburn Way across from the Lithia Park children's playground.

Flora estimated revenue for the winter at $88,500, up from $72,100 last winter. Final revenue figures will be tabulated by March 24.

The ice rink had been without a cover since 2007, when its previous cover was crushed by a tree and heavy snow.

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Department paid $251,200 in fall 2013 for the new cover.

On Sunday, Jennifer Alexander was enjoying the day with her 8- and 12-year-old daughters.

With the new roof, Alexander said she doesn't have to call the rink in advance to make sure the ice hasn't been damaged by rain or sun.

"It's nice having consistent skating all the time," she said.

Alexander said she does miss skating under the open sky, though.

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, may also have helped increase interest in the rink this winter, Flora said.

The Olympics ran from Feb. 7 and wrapped up with a closing ceremony on Sunday night.

On Sunday, 8-year-old Universe Mehringer was skating with new friends she had made at the rink. She said skating in the Olympics would be fun.

"I would like to be in the Olympics figure skating when I grow up," Mehringer said.

Salvador Siordia, 13, was practicing spinning moves he had seen during the Olympics. He said he would give the rink an "A" grade.

"It's a great place. You get to be with other people while you're skating," he said.

Several boys were practicing their speed skating skills as they played tag on the ice, while an adult speed skater wove expertly in between the more wobbly, tentative skaters. Flora said more people may also have chosen skating as a winter activity because the Mt. Ashland Ski Area has yet to open because of a lack of snow.

"It's very unfortunate to see that happen. Mt. Ashland draws a huge crowd to the area," he said. "Everyone benefits, including the rink, hotels and restaurants."

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.