Glistening wet from unusually warm weather, the ice skating rink reopened for the season in downtown’s City Plaza on Friday.
The rink is a key ingredient of the upcoming Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest Celebration, which begins Saturday, Dec. 7, when Mayor Nancy McFarlane will light a 40-foot Christmas tree in front of the BB&T building. In previous years, the rink opened with Winterfest.
But Polar Ice House, the company that operates the rink, requested an earlier opening this year, to take advantage of crowds that come down for the Raleigh Christmas Parade and other reasons in late November, and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance was happy to oblige.
“We need them to succeed,” said alliance president David Diaz.
At the ice-breaking ceremony Friday, members of N.C. State’s all-male a capella group Grains of Time serenaded bystanders with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Behind them, kids from the Centennial Authority skated on the fresh ice.
The 3,200-square-foot skating rink attracted about 15,000 people, according to Jill Heath, chairwoman of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.
“I think there will be more this year with it being open longer,” Heath said.
Members of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance considered buying their own ice skating rink but decided it was more economical to let Polar Ice House run things.
“We don’t need to be in the business of owning an ice rink,” Heath said with a laugh.
When the weather is warm as it was on Friday, with temperatures reaching about 70 degrees, the ice melts slightly. Michael Baxter, general manager of the Polar Hice House in Wake Forest, said pipes from a 12-foot by 12-foot compressor system run underneath the ice and work best when the air temperature is below 55 degrees.
“It’s a big grid running at 5 degrees under there, trying to battle the elements,” Baxter said.