The ice rink at in Hamilton will close this summer for the first time in its 23-year history.
The H. Alden Johnson Rink at the Highland Street school will close at the end of April and reopen Sept. 1. The decision was made because of declining demand for the ice during the summer and because of the increased cost to maintain the ice during warm weather, according to Jock Burns, Pingree’s director of finance and operations.
“It gives us some time to do work in there,” Burns said. “It had been going year-round.”
Burns said work would include “freshening up inside” with some new paint and a new floor surface.
The only time the rink has been previously closed for a prolonged period was to perform upgrades, repairs or maintenance. For example, the rink was closed when a new refrigeration system was installed, Burns said.
Many schools remove the ice and replace it with a hard surface for sports such as tennis, soccer or lacrosse in the summer. Burns said that’s possible with rinks with a concrete base, but Pingree has a dirt base.
Burns said a handful of youth hockey camps that planned to use the rink this summer will have to find ice time somewhere else.
The decision was fueled by a decline in demand for the rink in the summer.
“There’s less camp activity,” he said, noting some camps have seen a decline in enrollment of 30 to 40 percent. While decreased enrollment doesn’t impact the fees collected by Pingree – which charges hourly rates – if enrollment drops far enough some camps have been cancelled.
Specifically, the number of figure skating camps using the rink has been “way down,” he said.
In addition, demand is very high during the winter. The timing to close it coincides with a drop in demand to use the rink.
“From September to mid-April the rink is fully booked,” he said. “The rink is going weekends, morning and evenings.”