The winter of 2018 will be a little more fun and festive downtown Oshkosh thanks to a collaborative effort that will bring a new ice rink along the Fox River by the Oshkosh Convention Center. The rink, which will be open to the public at no cost, is set to open sometime late next week weather permitting.
According to Kristopher Ulrich with the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, the project was 100% funded by Foundation donors, with coordination help from the Oshkosh Parks Department and the Oshkosh Visitors and Convention Bureau.
Oshkosh Visitors and Convention Bureau Executive Director Amy Albright believes this will be a significant community improvement for downtown Oshkosh. “We are looking for ways to get people excited about the cold months in Oshkosh,” she said. “The ice rink is a fun thing for our local residents and we believe an attraction that can become part of a strategy to boost winter tourism in our city. We imagine a wide range of users from kids to families to couples on a date night! Once they are downtown, they can shop, have a bite to eat or stop somewhere for a drink.”
According to Karlene Grabner, director of donor services with the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, the downtown rink is an idea that has been floating around for the past five years. “We’ve been hearing people say that we need to have more winter activities in this area that families and individuals can enjoy,” Grabner said. “This is one of them.”
Albright said festive lighting will be installed in the near future, while lighting from the convention center and river walk will help.
This develop follows increasing awareness and interest in winter activities in and around Oshkosh. For the last several years, Dr. Eric Smiltneek and his wife Molly have been leading an ice skating group of Oshkosh area students over in Miller’s Bay. Local volunteers, in partnership with Winnebago Bicycle, Aurora, and Winnebago County Parks, have been developing winter snow bicycling trails. And Winnebago County Parks has recently been grooming cross county and snow shoe trails in County Park.
In November of this year, International Youth Sailing Executive Director Steve Eliasen wrote a piece in the Oshkosh Independent Magazine calling for more opportunities for healthy outdoor activities, recommending, “A few ice rinks around town – especially downtown, as it makes for a festive city and is good for downtown merchants.”
“We are hosting a ribbon cutting January 19, with the Oshkosh Convention Center serving as a warming shelter and a place to buy food and drinks,” said Albright. “Stay tuned for more information on our family event set for February 11.”
Planned hours for the rink are 6:00 am – 11:00 pm all days of the week as weather permits.
photo by Melody Wollangk/Limelite Studios courtesy of Steve Eliasen