Jan. 25, 2012

Ice on Main drew thousands of skaters

Big coils of tube were still on the site Monday, as city officials congratulated one another on an event that Mayor Knox White said brought outdoor laughter to a place where you don't usually hear it — next to the city government building.

Some nights, it could be hard to avoid other skaters and onlookers on the chilled surface. Councilwoman Jil Littlejohn told colleagues she took a turn, staying close to the sides.

For a Southern city, it was a project fraught with obstacles.

Meetings began in November 2010 with the city, developer Windsor/Aughtry, the Courtyard By Marriott hotel officials, Crawford Strategies and sponsors, said Dana Souza, the city's parks and recreation director.

He named a handful of city employees who did unusual things to make it work — like building the frame that surrounded the ice — and said everyone in the department was ultimately involved.

Souza flirted with the phrase "legal nightmare" in referring to the documents City Attorney Ron McKinney had to draw up for the project to work.

UBS was the title sponsor, at $40,000, while the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, the Greenville Hospital System and Spinx were involved at the $15,000 level, along with a group of others.

Spinx underwrote free skating periods that drew 1,100 people, Souza said.

Then there was the weather -- 70-plus degrees when the rink opened, then rain that could leave holes at the edges of the ice.

The city contributed $20,000 to the project, Souza said.

Attendance dropped in the final week when students went back to school, but he referred to initial, modest revenue estimates for context: He had hoped to generate about half the $100,000 that a rink in Ocala, Fla., brought in.

Souza told GreenvilleOnline.com he doesn't yet know what the net profit was because repairs to the site still have to be made. The money made, he said, will go into a fund held by the Community Foundation of Greenville to pay for next year's rink.

There will be, White said, a transparent wall next time.

"I think we have a winner," Castile said.

By: Ben Szobody           Greenville News