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Erik Burgess, Published February 26 2014

City, park, school leaders consider downtown Fargo ice rink

FARGO – Downtown Fargo could have a public ice skating rink by next year.

It’s an idea floated by Commissioner Brad Wimmer at a joint meeting of the city, and park and school districts Wednesday night.

While the idea is still pie-in-the-sky aspiration right now, Wimmer said he wants to gather some downtown, park and city officials into a committee to begin brainstorming where the rink could go.

It could be like Fargo’s own little Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan, which during the winter months is turned into a skating rink, he said.

“Many cities now are putting these in focal points in downtown areas,” Wimmer said.

Roger Gress, executive director of Fargo Park District, said the idea has been kicked around for a number of years, but downtown is now ripe for a public area like this.

“We’ve got such a renaissance of downtown, the new buildings and now the City Hall,” he said. “It’s really a good time to bring it up again to see if there’s a group that’s seriously interested in doing something like that.”

Fargo used to have a downtown outdoor rink at Island Park, where Fargo Central High School played varsity hockey in the mid-1960s, Wimmer said.

Wimmer also pointed to St. Paul, which sets up ice sculptures and a downtown ice rink during its annual winter festival.

“It’s just a pleasure to be walking through that area, and Fargo is becoming that and more, quite honestly,” he said.

The city should look at a location that can be used as a skating rink in the winter and converted to something else in the summer, Wimmer said.

Gress said he liked that idea. The Fargo Park District has about 17 outdoor rinks and some turn to muck in the spring, he said.

“You develop it into a plaza. Then that plaza becomes something that we program during the holiday season, where we sing and we bring in school groups,” Gress said. “That’s kind of the whole Rockefeller square (idea).”

Wimmer said he’d like to see a downtown skating rink open by winter 2015.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518