From one man's dream to a city's vision: Ice rink proposal for downtown Holland taking shape

It began with the dream of one Holland community member and has grown to encompass the voices of hundreds more. 

At an open house Monday night, May 2, the city of Holland showed off the culmination of hours spent gathering community input into a proposed permanent ice rink at its Window on the Waterfront Park along Sixth Street near the city’s downtown.

One man's dream

Frank Kraai, a retired West Ottawa Public Schools elementary educator who’s lived along the Lakeshore his entire life, has donated a little bit at a time to the cause of an ice rink in the city of Holland, totaling $116,000. 

Having made a few wise investments in companies he considered to be innovative such as Gentex and Apple, Kraai discovered one day (quite to his surprise) that he was, in fact, a millionaire. The prolific and lifelong volunteer knew what to do with his wealth.

With the help of the Community Foundation of the Holland-Zeeland Area, Kraai donated another $1 million to the city, designated for the purpose of building the permanent ice rink.

Prime real estate

The city’s interest in the waterfront is longstanding.

“We’ve been trying to drive people from downtown to the north to see the water,” says Andy Kenyon, Parks and Recreation Director for the city of Holland.

The rink would be near the western edge of Window on the Waterfront Park, near the natural playscape. GMB, which also designed the playscape, is the engineering and design firm working on the proposed rink.

For this project, consultants looked at multiple existing studies commissioned by the city of Holland dating back to the 1980s.

Input

This year, the city has also conducted outreach efforts at Holland Public Schools, Herrick District Library, and with the Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance to tap into the thoughts of nonprofit leaders.

Focus groups of business owners along Sixth Street and more broadly downtown have given insights of those closest to the proposal.

City staff also visited public rinks to see what could be possible as well as best practices for building and operating a rink.

Then, a first-round design process yielded some artist renderings of what could become the city’s first permanent ice rink.

It was those designs on display Monday night.

The rink would include skate rental, a ribbon of ice for long skates, hot cocoa, special rink for curling, and a Zamboni to maintain it.

“It will be much more than just a sheet of ice. … It will be a true community gathering palace,” Mayor Nathan Bocks says in a city-produced video about the proposed rink.

It would be refrigerated to extend the skating season. The city is exploring using the existing snowmelt system to both cool the ice through a reverse heat pump and to heat the sidewalks and benches around the rink.

“We live downtown, so it’s going to be kind of fun. We can walk there,” says Elisabeth Bauman, who came to see the proposals on display at City Hall Monday night and whose two teenage sons are involved with the project through the Holland Youth Advisory Council.

Next step

The next step is to figure out how much each component would cost and what to include.

If the city were going to put in just the ice rink, the cost might be kept to that $1 million donation, but the plaza, building, and infrastructure is going to cost much more, says Andy Kenyon, Parks and Recreation Director for the city of Holland. 

A fundraising campaign will begin later this year and the rink could be ready as soon as winter 2023.