Ice skating coming to Chattanooga riverfront

photo People skate on an outdoor skating rink in downtown Greenville, S.C. Chattanooga may get a similar rink near Ross's Landing.

The thought of a sheet of ice that lasts from the end of November through the new year normally would send freaked-out Southerners into an every-man-for-himself scramble for milk and bread.

This time, though, folks are actually looking forward to it.

A temporary outdoor ice-skating rink is coming to the Chattanooga Green at the 21st Century Waterfront, thanks to a partnership between Chattanooga Presents and Volkswagen Chattanooga.

The 50-by-70-foot rink, to be known as Ice on the Landing, will open Nov. 28 as part of the Lighted Boat Parade, another event produced by Chattanooga Presents. The rink will be operated by Magic Ice USA, which is based in Orlando, Fla., and is scheduled to remain open until Jan. 4, but Chattanooga Presents owner Carla Pritchard says she has the option to extend the contract.

"If the response is so great, we will keep it, but the idea was to have it here through the holidays," Pritchard said.

If Kathy Burke's reaction to the news is any indication, the rink should be a hit. She actually worked part time at the old rink at what's now Eastgate Town Center and helped start the now-defunct Chattanooga Figure Skating Club.

"I love skating of any kind," Burke said. "I've been waiting 13 years for a new one to open so my [14-year-old] granddaughter can ice skate. My only regret is I sold my skates. I'll have to buy some new ones."

The small rink inside what was then Eastgate Mall was open for three years and closed in 2002.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo once had an ice-skating rink in the same building that now holds Track 29, but it closed in the early 1980s. A small rink operated for a short time in the '90s in what is now First Tennessee Pavilion, where the Chattanooga Market is held.

Magic Ice has created outdoor ice skating rinks in Huntsville, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Greenville and Columbia, S.C., and also has built rinks in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Ice on the Landing will be open to the public seven days a week. Its hours will vary, depending on when kids get out of school for the holiday break. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children and includes skates and two hours of rink time. The price is the same if patrons bring their own skates.

"I'll go with and without the kids," Autumn Hadacek of Chattanooga said on the Times Free Press Facebook page.

Over the next couple of days, workers will use sand to "laser level" the area for the rink, which will arrive Nov. 21.

Bringing an outdoor ice-skating rink to town was a little more complicated than one might think, said Pritchard, who began looking for an ice rink a year ago.

It was important to find a company that could maintain the ice on warmer days, she said, which requires a good deal of electricity. To make sure the rink didn't turn into a pond, Chattanooga Presents worked with the city and EPB to get a special connection installed on the Green.

Pritchard said there's already such a connection under the Chattanooga Pier, one that's used for concerts such as Riverbend and Riverfront Nights, but putting the rink there "didn't make sense."

And word already is spreading, with people calling to make reservations for parties, she said. Members of the Hockey Chattanooga League, who use wheeled, inline skates for games at Chattanooga Skate Park at First Tennessee Pavilion, will patrol the rink and provide helping hands for Southerners who may be shaky scooting across ice on slender pieces of metal.

If the rink proves popular, a larger rink, one big enough for hockey games, could be erected in future years, Pritchard said.

Scott Wilson, head of communications for Volkswagen Chattanooga, said in a statement that the company is "very pleased that we can be a part of establishing this exciting new activity in downtown Chattanooga."

"Outdoor activities in our city normally focus on summer sports, and Ice on the Landing will be a great opportunity for Chattanoogans to be active during the holidays," Wilson said.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.