Grand Rapids DDA OKs plan to bring public skating to Van Andel Arena

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The community may soon get to skate on the same ice as the Grand Rapids Griffins.

On Wednesday morning, the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved shifting approximately $40,000 in funding for ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle to public ice skating at Van Andel Arena. The DDA also supported moving forward with a rental agreement for the arena.

“Not only is it equipped with an existing rink, but it can allow maximum spacing for skaters,” Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President and CEO Tim Kelley stated in a memo to the DDA.

It’s welcome news for businesses along Monroe Center Street that cater to the skate crowd. 

“I would say ice skating counts for at least 50% or more of the business,” said Kristyn Heagberg, who manages the Biggby Coffee Shop on Monroe Center Street. “We should still get business from Van Andel, even though were a little further away. We probably won’t get as many people as when ice skating was right across the street. But it definitely should still bring people in.”

The Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority is waiving the arena rental fee and offering the space when it’s not being used for other events. The reallocated money will go towards staffing, operations, custodial services, safety, security and maintenance, which is estimated to cost $4,000 to $5,000 for every three hours of open skating.

(Crews paint the Griffins logo on the recently restored ice at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. on Jan. 14, 2021)

The Grand Rapids City Commission is expected to consider funding its portion of public skating at Van Andel Arena during the commission’s next meeting on Dec. 14.

City and CAA staff are working through the logistics of public skating at the arena, including a finalized schedule. The plan is to offer open skating later this year and into 2022.

To curb crowding, the city will use a reservation system like last year and limit capacity at the arena. Visitors can rent skates through the city again this year.

“It’ll be interesting if it is a huge success. You know, is this something that we will continue in the future, even when Rosa Parks Circle is open, if that’ll be multiple opportunities for people,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said.

A chain-link fence keeps people away from Ecliptic at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids while renovations are underway. (Nov. 15, 2021)

Construction delays at Rosa Parks Circle forced the city to scrap public ice skating on the Ecliptic (the art installation that defines the plaza) this year. The renovated public space was originally expected to reopen in September, but was delayed because the specific granite requested by artist and architect Maya Lin hadn’t arrived. City officials say the new projected completion date for the renovations is February.

—News 8’s Joe LaFurgey contributed to this report.

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