Outdoor ice rink brings patrons and supports local non-profits

The shift to a weeks-long Holiday in the City celebration has been a hit among local residents and visitors alike, with Downtown Springfield events and businesses staying busy during the last couple weeks as the holiday season kicked off.

The ice rink on City Hall Plaza quickly picked up traction and has been busy – as have the non-profit organizations that volunteered to run the attraction.

“The way the rink works is really cool. Because we were able to get sponsorships to cover most of the cost of the rink from Speedway and the Holiday in the City committee, we didn’t need to generate funds from the rink itself to cover its cost,” says John Kelly, downtown events programmer for The Greater Springfield Partnership. “So to staff it, we reached out to local non-profits to see if they would adopt a weekend, and while they run it, they get to keep the profits.”

So far, organizations have made more than $2,000 during their weekend ice rink coverage, Kelly says.

And, to add to the giving, the committee is now including other groups and organizations to the mix to raise funds while running the rink’s hot chocolate stand.

“We still need non-profits, church groups, local sports team, and other organizations to come be a part of this community event and fundraise while they’re doing it,” Kelly says. “We set up the table, tent and chairs, and all the group is responsible for is bringing products to use to fundraise, whether those be cookies or candy canes or hot chocolate.”

Groups can post a suggested donation for the treats they bring to the stand, and Kelly says groups that have run the stand so far have done well collecting donations. Organizations that are interested can email Kelly at [email protected].

“What we’re trying to do is create a schedule so whenever the rink is open, there’s a vendor hosting the hot chocolate stand,” Kelly says. “We want to get non-profits involved so they can make some profits of their own.”

To bring even more fun to the outdoor rink, new special event nights have been added – including a DORA Night Series event tonight, Thursday, Dec. 2. The event will be a Silent Disco at the Rink hosted by DJ Chill at the ice rink.

“We’re still trying to reinforce DORA (the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) into the community and to continue to raise awareness of DORA, so with the huge positive response to the ice rink, we wanted to tie the two together,” Kelly says. “You can get a DORA drink, walk around and enjoy the lights and the event.

“The event is a bridge between Holiday in the City and Downtown businesses, and encourages people to stop in businesses while they’re Downtown – whether it’s their first time in or their tenth time.”

The event will be from 5 to 8 p.m. tonight. Taking a spin on the ice rink costs $5 per skater, with children 5 and younger free.

Stella Bleu, Fratelli’s, and The Market Bar will be mixing up specialty cocktails and spiked hot chocolate. Fountain on Main will be serving hot chocolate, Mother Stewart’s Brewery will have live music, and other Downtown restaurants, including The Painted Pepper, will have menu specials.

And, Santa will also be making his way around the Esplanade throughout the night.

The ice rink will also be open this weekend on Friday, Dec. 3 from 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4 from 4 to 9 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 5 from 4 to 8 p.m. - in addition to future weekends in December - for visitors to take a twirl under the lights.

If you miss tonight’s event, don’t worry. There’s plenty more Holiday in the City fun going on throughout the weekend and into next week, including First Fridays on Dec. 3; Holiday at the Museum, the Holiday in the Market at COhatch, and the Springfield Symphony Winds at Mother’s on Dec. 4; Carolers on the Esplanade on Dec. 5; and various Santa visits to the Springfield Museum of Art, COhatch, and the NTPRD Chiller ice rink.

Visit the Holiday in the City Facebook page for specific time, date, and location details in posted events and on the calendar.

“It’s a great way to spend time with your family, and a great opportunity to celebrate the holidays,” Kelly says. “With over 40 events in the five-week period of Holiday in the City, there’s something for everybody.”

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.