PORT ANGELES — Ice skating will return to downtown Port Angeles on March 19 with COVID-19 safety measures and $5 morning sessions to scatter the crowds and provide affordable entertainment.
The Port Angeles Winter Ice Village was moved to spring this year because of coronavirus concerns.
While the holiday decorations will be kept in storage, the 40- by 100-foot Ice America skating rink will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. until April 18.
“It will look a lot more like an outdoor recreation venue than a holiday venue,” said Marc Abshire, Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director, in a Wednesday Zoom meeting.
The portable rink, at 121 W. Front St., drew thousands of local and out-of-town skaters during its first two winters in Port Angeles.
Chamber volunteers sold about 18,000 skate sessions during the 2019-20 season, Abshire said in a Thursday interview.
This year, all skaters and spectators will be required to wear masks. Rented skating equipment will be disinfected after each use.
No more than 75 skaters will be allowed on the ice at any one time. The Ice Village is being advertised as “Safe Skate 2021.”
“We intend to keep it as safe as possible,” Abshire said Wednesday.
“We’re really benefiting from the fact that this is an outdoor activity, and also an activity that, for the most part, has people moving most of the time.”
Chamber officials worked with the Clallam County Health Department on safety protocols.
Abshire said the venue would help draw visitors to downtown businesses that have struggled during the pandemic.
“This past year has been so difficult on businesses, and I think we’re ready to turn the corner,” Abshire said.
“We weren’t ready in November. That’s why we postponed it. But man, we’ve done such a great job in our county and in our area here of keeping this virus contained, getting people vaccinated.”
Clallam and Jefferson counties have had lower rates of COVID-19 activity and higher vaccination rates than most counties in the state.
“I think it’s time to get our businesses supported much more again,” Abshire said.
“I’m excited about the Winter Ice Village being a catalyst to get that normal business flow going again and kick off what I think is going to be a really busy spring and summer for our area.”
Prices for skate sessions will range from $5 to $15 depending on the time of day.
It will cost $5 to skate between 9 a.m. and noon, $10 to skate in the afternoon and $10 or $15 to skate in the evenings and night, depending on the day.
Daily prices and volunteer sign-up forms will be posted on the Port Angeles Winter Ice Village website at www.wintericevillage.com.
About 800 three-hour volunteer shifts are needed to cover the month-long event.
“We pull this off because of volunteers,” Abshire said.
The spring Ice Village will coincide with spring break for most North Olympic Peninsula students, who will be off April 5-9.
Unlike in previous years, reservations will be taken to ensure ice time when the rink nears its 75-person capacity. Reservations are not to required to skate.
“The purpose for the reservation system is really to guarantee that you’ll be able to skate when you want to skate,” Abshire said.
Event organizer Leslie Kidwell Robertson said more than 75 skaters used the ice during busy times last year. The maximum capacity of the rink is 100.
“I wanted to emphasize the fact that we are keeping that $5 morning pricing because one of our main commitments with this rink is to make sure it stays affordable for everybody in the community,” Robertson said during the virtual chamber meeting.
Abshire and Robertson said the Ice Village would not be possible without donations from local businesses and volunteers to staff the venue.
In a Thursday interview, Abshire said the total cost of the spring event would be about $150,000.
“This kind of an activity doesn’t really pencil out if you wanted to try to run it as a business with employees and that sort of thing,” Abshire said.
“It really is a true community effort made possible by volunteers, and that’s what enables us to have our prices affordable for many.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].