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Free Wicker Park Public Ice Rink to Open Dec. 5 for Skating, Hockey

By Alisa Hauser | November 17, 2015 5:43pm
 A rendering of an ice skating rink that will be erected in Wicker Park on Dec. 5 and open until March 1st, weather permitting. The rink is not refrigerated and requires the temperature to be below freezing.
A rendering of an ice skating rink that will be erected in Wicker Park on Dec. 5 and open until March 1st, weather permitting. The rink is not refrigerated and requires the temperature to be below freezing.
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Culllitan Quinn Landscape and Architecture

WICKER PARK — After months of planning, a community-funded ice skating rink plans to open in Wicker Park's namesake park on Dec. 5 and will be available to the public for use as long as the weather hits freezing temperatures, organizers from the Wicker Park Advisory Council and the Chamber of Commerce said Monday.

Aiming to be the new center of outdoor leisure activity in Wicker Park this winter, the 60-foot-wide by 120-foot-long non-refrigerated "WickerICE" rink will be installed and filled with water on Dec. 5 in the park at 1425 N. Damen Ave., just south of the CTA Blue Line Damen stop.

Outside of a smattering of private ice rinks, there are just eight free outdoor rinks in Chicago Park District parks.  

"What sets WickerICE apart is that it's the only community-funded and maintained ice rink in the city," organizers said in a news release.

Referencing a statue of Charles Gustavus Wicker, one of the neighborhood's founders that has long been installed in the park and features Mr. Wicker "pitching in" and holding a broom, Doug Wood, secretary of the Wicker Park Advisory Council and coordinator of the Wicker-ICE Committee, said, "It is up to you to create the community in which you'd like to live; don't wait for someone to do it for you." The Wicker Park Advisory Council is following his directive."

As of Tuesday, a GoFundeMe campaign for WickerICE raised $31,422 by 147 people in two months, and while the initial goal was $30,000, the group is now working to raise $60,000, as a "second-level goal," Wood said.

The rink hours will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily when ice is properly frozen; a schedule of activities such as free skating, hockey, family skating and kids-only sessions is expected to be worked out soon and posted at wickerpark.org

No admission fee will be charged to get into the rink. The Chicago Park District's field house will also be open during the hours of operation as a warming space and for restrooms, but will be closed on holidays.

In addition to the GoFundMe online campaign, earlier this month volunteers hosted two fundraisers and introduced beanie hats with the rink's logo, which are $20 each. 

Wood said anyone interested in buying a beanie hat can stop by the fountain decorating social on Saturday, the rink's day of filling and construction on Dec. 5 or the committee's next meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 in the park field house, 1425 N. Damen Ave.

Brian Culliton, the Wicker ICE's committee's co-chairman and rink co-designer, previously acknowledged that the weather might give skaters only 30 days of "skate-able" ice. 

"The rewards of having only a handful of skating days, I believe, outweigh the hard work and commitment needed from the neighborhood," Culliton said.

Culliton, who has lived in Wicker Park since 1997, was so determined to have a local rink for his two sons that he built a small rink in his backyard, he said at a meeting last March.

"The frustration with ice skating in the city where we live is the closest outdoor rink is a 25-minute drive at minimum. An ice rink in Wicker Park would provide amazing opportunities for our neighborhood kids and longterm memories. It would really be a neighborhood rink and will bring excitement to the area during the long winter months," Culliton said.

For more information on the Wicker Park Advisory Council and the rink, which is working in partnership with the Chicago Park District and includes contributions from the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce and SSA No. 33, visit the group's website or email Wood to get involved.

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