Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Downtown Roller Rink Looks Feasible

Downtown BID offers help, parks report says temporary structure needed to protect Red Arrow ice rink.

By - May 24th, 2022 10:13 am
2021 Downtown Employee Appreciation Week kickoff at Red Arrow Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

2021 Downtown Employee Appreciation Week kickoff at Red Arrow Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

In March, county officials began considering a proposal to turn the plaza in Red Arrow Park into a roller rink during the summer.

The plan would use the site of the winter ice skating rink, called “Slice of Ice,” for the roller rink. When the proposal first went before the county board, Milwaukee County Parks expressed some reservations about a roller rink in the plaza. Specifically, that damage to the surface of the plaza could affect the ability to produce an ice sheet.

A new report from parks indicates that while originally stated concerns remain, there are ways to pursue the project that will protect the ice rink.

Still, a major downtown organization has pledged its commitment to be a partner in programming the space should a roller rink move forward.

In a letter, Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown, the area’s business improvement district, said, “We vow to be a community partner to help program the roller rink with themed nights, live DJs, food trucks, and more, to ensure that the roller rink is a vibrant destination for everyone in Milwaukee and look forward to being partners with you on this exciting, game-changing activation of Red Arrow Park.”

The 9,000-square-foot ice rink was built in 1999 by Commercial Refrigeration Services. Parks researched other rinks around the country built by this company and found that other communities have at various points in the past used them for roller skating, according to a new parks report.

Slice of Ice is a popular parks amenity during the winter that brought in nearly $80,000 in revenue for the department last year. So the department is committed to protecting the rink for its original purpose, and said, “This surface needs to be kept in the best condition possible or it will directly affect the creation of the ice sheet. Any stains, surface contamination, or damage from adhesives, roller skate brake pads, and other possible uses will affect the sheet.”

In Dilworth Park in Philadelphia, an ice rink was used as a roller rink in 2021, and is planned again for such use in 2022. The problem there, of potential surface damage to the ice rink, was solved by building a “temporary frame” on top of the ice rink, protecting it.

The Milwaukee County Parks Department sought quotes for a similar frame, and found it would likely cost $58,000 a month. The parks report adds that this is an initial cost estimate and should not be used for budgeting, but that it also didn’t include the cost to seasonally remove and reinstall the structure.

In Philadelphia, the temporary frame, which pictures show supports a roller rink on top of the ice rink, was paid for and operated by a local business improvement district.

In her letter to the board of supervisors, Wierick mentioned the Philadelphia rink as an example of what is possible, though she did not indicate whether Milwaukee Downtown would pay to install and operate such a facility.

Parks reports that it will “explore partnerships with other non-profit entities” and that it is “open to conversations about other uses of Red Arrow Park in non-winter months including special events, concerts, and temporary uses that activate the ice skating rink space.”

But protecting the ice rink, which was built as part of a significant redevelopment of the park, remains the chief priority for the department.

2 thoughts on “MKE County: Downtown Roller Rink Looks Feasible”

  1. Swaterhouse says:

    A very creative & fun idea! The estimated cost of it is shocking however. Covid has had a big impact on our city funds & on businesses to these past 2 years. Not having things for kids to do with summer vacation ahead is a huge concern as well as our city can already see! If this isn’t an option…I would love to see an effort to make sure MKE Parks are in good repair throughout the city…basketball courts with good surfaces, hoops & nets. How about reaching out to MKE HS & private swim teams to encourage and offer Lifeguard Classes so the neighborhood pools can be re opened? Maybe an Adopt a Park or Playground and the Community could be asked to get involved with maintenance? Buying or hanging a net? Once a week litter patrol? Put on a yoga class? Work Out Class? Craft Class? Sports Game Class Etc….

  2. kaygeeret says:

    Some really great and creative ideas Swaterhouse!

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