Although temperatures Thursday were almost summer-like, Headwaters Park officials are constructing the ice skating rink that will open in just a few weeks.
Geoff Paddock, executive director of the Headwaters Park Alliance, said the popular ice rink under the Lincoln Pavilion is expected to admit its 200,000th skater since it opened in 2003.
We expect that to happen in late December, Paddock said during a news conference Thursday, adding that the park needs 10,000 more skaters to reach that milestone.
Formed in 2000, the Headwaters Park Alliance is a nonprofit corporation that, through an agreement with Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation, manages and maintains the downtown park.
The park was founded in 1993 and covers 30 acres in downtown Fort Wayne. The city spent about $7 million to buy the land, though a private group called the Headwaters Park Commission raised much of the money for its construction. The Headwaters Park Alliance took over the maintenance of the park after the commission was phased out.
About 80 percent of the money to maintain the park comes from private donations raised by the alliance, Paddock said.
Those donations allow us to subsidize the rink and keep admittance fees low and allow free skating for children under 14 every Wednesday, he said.
Paddock and David Steiner, a 15-year volunteer and six-year board member for the Alliance, outlined some of the accomplishments of the Alliance, including raising nearly $40,000 in private contributions for landscaping and planting trees.
Maintenance crews have preserved 123 ash trees in the park from emerald ash borers, Paddock said.
On the wish list is a new refrigeration system for the ice rink at a cost of $125,000 to $150,000. The current one is not attractive or as energy-efficient as newer models, Paddock said.
The group is seeking grants to underwrite the cost, he said.
A new system would enable the Alliance to enlarge the 60-by-120-foot rink.
This rink has become such a popular place for the community, and it would be nice to expand it, Steiner said.
Paddock said the pavilions were recently thoroughly inspected after destructive storms hit the area June 29. The structures were found to be in good shape and required only minor adjustments, Paddock said.
The current contract between the Alliance and Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation will expire Dec. 31. Both Paddock and Steiner said they expect the contract to be renewed for another three years.