Ice skating will return to Acacia Park on Friday with a soft opening of the newly constructed, yet familiar, rink.

City crews were hard at work making ice and installing the Olympic City USA logo Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, said Andrew Rummel, general manager of city ice rinks.

“It happens so quick. A week ago this time they just started to level out the sand for a foundation, and in a matter of days they have the chilling lines, rink and tents set up,” Rummel said.

A grand opening will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. on Nov. 15, officially kicking off the winter season with a free skate session, he added.

“Guys were out here last night laying the Olympic City USA logo,” Rummel said.

The ice is made in the morning before the sun comes up and at night. During the day, the ice is covered with tarps to keep it from melting.

Warm weather always presents a challenge for the rink, but Rummel said he’s hopeful that once the weather turns colder the rink will have solid ice all season.

A weeklong buffer period before the grand opening is important not only for maintaining the ice, but also for training staff on the new features this year, including a new ice resurfacer, kids skate trainers shaped like blue seals, a pond hockey tournament and a pop-up Story Coffee shop.

“Other events that are open to the public are free learn to skate sessions, there’ll be some ice demonstrations from U.S. figure skating team members, and opportunities for the public to meet and skate with some of the Colorado College hockey players,” Rummel said.

This year the rink will be open until Feb. 23, a month longer than the previous skating season, which ended Jan. 21, Rummel said. This is due in part to an outdoor NHL game in February at the Air Force Academy, which Rummel hopes will generate more interest in skating.

Overall, staff are expecting more than 20,000 people to hit the ice at Acacia Park this winter, said city spokeswoman Kim Melchor. At some points during the park’s busiest holiday weekends, Rummel expects as many as 250 people on the ice. “Usually we run out of skates before we run out of skaters,” Rummel said.

Admission is $10 per person, which includes skate rentals.

While walking back to Spanish class, local high school students Joe Lange and Luke Larson admitted that before this year they gave little thought to the community rink.“We thought it was just a one time thing last year, but it’s definitely a lot cooler this year to see it up again, and now that more people know about it now I definitely want to try it,” Lange said.

“It makes the park feel Christmassy, and I feel like its a good thing for families to enjoy,” Larson said.

While Larson confessed that he has never skated on the rink, this year might be the year he tries it.

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