Outdoor ice rink officially opens in downtown Farmington’s Riley Park

People have been looking forward to the ice rink returning to Riley Park in downtown Farmington. So much so, in fact, that Melissa Andrade, assistant to the city manager, says she heard a story of one intrepid skater sneaking onto the ice the evening before the rink’s official opening.

Riley Park Ice Rink did officially open this past Tuesday, Dec. 15, and, to the relief of people like the rumored rule-breaker, nearly two weeks ahead of schedule.

The rink typically opens on Christmas Day, Andrade says, but an early autumn freed up city workers from their leaf-collecting duties to open the ice rink ahead of schedule.

“We’re thrilled to have the rink open in time for the holidays. We’re really happy to have some outdoor options that are safe ways for people to get out of the house,” Andrade says.

This year’s outdoor ice skating season will look different from those in the past. Safety restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic will cut rink capacity by half. Popular events, like the annual Harry Potter-themed celebration, have been canceled. And the free skate rentals have been put on ice.

Because there will be no free ice skate rentals this season, Andrade believes that there won’t be any problems with overcrowding the rink.

Still, the rink is there to be enjoyed, something that can be done safely. With capacity halved, skaters can feel more comfortable on the ice. Face masks are also required, something that might actually be welcomed in these cold weather months.

While ice rink-themed events have been canceled this season, Andrade is hopeful that the forthcoming social district will help local businesses hurt by the loss of the events. Riley Park will be part of the planned district, which allows for bars and restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks to-go and consumed in designated areas. The park itself will be receiving outdoor heaters and wind breaks.

In light of the free skate rentals being canceled, Andrade is currently looking for local sports equipment stores willing to offer coupons for purchasing ice skates.

And, she says, there’s always Santa Claus.

“I’m hoping that people put ice skates on their Christmas lists.”

Riley Park Ice Rink is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.