Tahlequah to open new ice rink for holidays

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - A man and a woman ice-skating hand-in-hand in a park, chasing their frosty breath as it wisps into the cold dark air. Children quickly slicing past, wrapped in thick coats and with scarves dangling from their necks, their faces aglow from the golden aurora cast from lights strung overhead. A family standing by, huddled close together sipping hot cider, with wafts of steam dancing above their cups.

Such may be scene of an early 1900s era winter painting, but such is the scene now being created in Tahlequah.

"We want to create a Norman Rockwell painting type environment," Tahlequah mayor Jason Nichols told 2NEWS. Currently under construction in the town's Norris Park on the 400 block of N. Muskogee Avenue is an ice-rink set to be opened next week and to remain open through New Year's Day.

Once complete, the 62-foot by 120-foot rink will feature Christmas lights hung overhead and concessions hosted by various nonprofits alternating through the course of the rink's stay, offering seasonal eats, treats and drinks.

The city bought the rink this year for the town's annual Snowflake Winter Festival after renting a rink half its size last year.

"It was very popular," Nichols told 2NEWS, saying an estimated 6,000 patrons hailing from all over, even one couple from England, set their blades to ice. "The only suggestion was to make it a little bigger."

So they did – but that's not the only change. Also this year a ticket for $10 will get patrons two hours on the ice, not just 90 minutes like last year. The Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce is even offering a $2 discount.

The rink purchased from Magic Ice USA for $130,000, mostly paid for by private donations and with another $117,000 the city kicked in for the rink's setup and operation, Nichols said the new attraction with a 10-year lifespan should pay for itself within a year-and-a-half.

It should also be worth the investment for the attention it should draw this town of 16,000, according to Nichols who said the nearest cities he is aware that offer rinks in the area are Tulsa and Fayetteville, Ark.

"It's a unique thing that has and will bring visitors and shoppers to town," he said. "It not only offers activity to locals but also draws visitors to Tahlequah."

But also the payment is in the fun and the memories it will bring patrons.

"Everyone seems to enjoy it."

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