Well, it’s not unanimous.
A lot of people are happy, for sure. Mickey Mallonee, the city’s director of special events, says more than 12,000 folks attended Friday’s Celebration of Lights program which marked the opening of the temporary skating rink on Market Square, dubbed “Holidays on Ice.”
All of downtown was bustling, as the accompanying photos will attest. Children and adults were lined up to get into the ice rink. Deck the halls!
By Monday, however, the rink was virtually empty. At 6 p.m., only three skaters were on the ice. Vendors were literally twiddling their thumbs. And later in the week, the folks at Salon Visage were pretty grumpy.
“We HATE the tents!” three of the women at the front desk said in unison, when asked about the ice rink. “You can’t see anything except the ugly white tents,” one explained. “You can’t feel the atmosphere of Market Square at all.” When asked if it helped their business, the answer was a resounding no.
John Craig heads up the Market Square District Association so he deals with all the businesses on the square. “It doesn’t help everybody’s business,” he conceded Wednesday. “It’s kind of like the Sundown in the City concerts. But it’s a net plus for most people.”
There seem to be three main issues:
- The ice rink puts a physical barrier to crossing Market Square itself. Pedestrians have to loop around the Square to get to the other side;
- The big tents disrupt the sight lines — you can’t see from one side of the Square to the other;
- Some of the restaurants feel that the temporary food vendors who come in for special events like this are skimming the “cream” by only operating when crowds are expected, while the year-round eateries must stick it out during good times and bad. And they are the ones who have truly invested in making Market Square what it is.
As far as the tents go, Craig said that when the ice rink was first constructed several years ago, it was open-air: there were no tents. But whenever it rained, the ice would melt. Having a covered ice surface prevents that.
As for the attendance, Craig said week nights are understandably slow until school gets out for the winter break. But weekends are good.
So it’s a trade-off. “It doesn’t do huge things for everybody’s business. But it’s become a signature thing for Market Square,” he pointed out. “It provides an extra reason for people to come to Market Square over Christmas.”
There has been some talk among city government types about the possibility of moving the rink to the Krutch Park extension in future years. Craig is not offended by that thought. “That’s an interesting idea,” he said. Some think that location would be a benefit to businesses on Gay Street, as well as those on Market Square.
Some other folks have suggested moving the rink to a different part of the city every year. Fountain City might like to have it one year, for instance, it has been suggested.
Mallonee said the rink costs the city $289,000. (This is the first year it has been run by the city; previously a private company did it.)
So what will happen next year? Will it return to Market Square? Will it move to Krutch Park extension? Will it move somewhere else in the city?
“I have no idea!” Mallonee laughs. “I can tell you one thing — it won’t be me making the decision!” She has announced plans to retire at the end of this year. The mayor is leaving to become governor in January. City Council has not yet picked an interim mayor. And it seems like every day someone new is mentioned as a candidate for permanent mayor. So who knows?
Here’s my advice: if you like to ice skate, go to Market Square and enjoy it as often as you can for the remainder of the month.
Here are some scenes from Friday:
But Monday was a different story.
Photo credit: All pictures of Friday’s festivities were taken by Don Tritt on behalf of the city of Knoxville. Courtesy of Mickey Mallonee. Thanks.
Relocating to the Krutch Park extension does make a lot of sense…it’s a winter time waste. Extending the hours, just evenings and weekends through February makes sense too. Downtown businesses could use any additional draws during the slow post-holiday season. With the heavy-hitter sponsors the City secured, the financial drain should be minimal, if anything at all for a revenue generating drawing card like the ice rink.
I love the idea of the ice rink, but I agree with the tents taking away from the beauty of market square. Clear tents possibly?
I have not personally used the rink yet, nor have I ever been on ice skates in my life, but Tuesday night a few of us Moxley Carmichael folks will give it a try.
I’m making sure our health insurance is up to date now! I think I’ll just hang on to Scott’s scarf and let him pull me around. Thanks for the idea, Charley!
Thanks for the thoughts, Brad. Shaun: great idea about the clear tents! To all the MoxCar folks: for heaven’s sake be careful out there!!!
I love to ice skate and have all my life. I think the Krutch Park extension makes perfect sense. Shaun, I suggest you hold onto the wall — that’s what it’s there for. Or, use what they give kids who are learning how to skate — a walker with blades!
I will pass on trying the rink on Tuesday. I am age 63, therefore likely to fall. I am also 6-3 tall which means I fall a looooong way.
Hmmm, just means I’ll be making my visit to the rink on a Monday or Tuesday when it’s dead! I don’t really have any desire to skate when it’s crowded.
I feel the businesses’ pain about it being an eyesore and it not helping business … but does it HURT their business? If no harm, then I say no foul.
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