2015-10-22 / Opinion

Rooting for an Icy Winter


We sit here on Broadway, quietly applauding Michele Maker Palmieri’s campaign to raise enough money to reopen Newport’s outdoor ice skating rink at its former downtown location.

Nearly everyone in the city feels the same way, or so it seems. Last winter, with the property having recently changed ownership, the rink did not materialize for the first time in 14 years. By the time various key players had cobbled together a plan to set it up, it was just too late.

The truth is, it seems to us, there remain significant hurdles that Palmieri must overcome if the rink is to rise again for the coming winter. Two key players, Peregrine Group that owns the land and Newport Harbor Corporation, which has the rink equipment, have of.fered to donate both to Palmieri’s Waterfront Productions LLC, to open the rink this season.

Those hurdles having been cleared, the big issue is money. Or, more accurately, the lack of it.

Palmieri says she needs $120,000, which is $20,000 more than she said was required a year ago. However, she explains, the outdoor rink is not a money maker and her company is not in a position to absorb a significant financial loss by reopening the rink.

She says she has collected more than $50,000 so far, some or most of it from a handful of generous corporate sponsors. We hope there are more of them out there, because her Nov. 18 deadline—that’s when they must start to reassemble the rink if it’s to be ready for the December holiday season—is closer than it may seem.

Palmieri has also begun a campaign to collect smaller donations through an online program. But let’s face reality. It would take an unusually robust response there to attract $70,000 in $5 and $10 or even $100 increments.

Corporate donors prefer to give money to causes run with an eye to the bottom line. Waterfront Productions LLC might want to send a positive signal that they would run a tight financial operation with the rink this winter. With that in mind, we suggest minimizing the personnel costs of reopening the rink by scaling back on the number of days the rink is open. For example, why not determine the week’s slowest three days and close the rink on those days?

We think that Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday would probably be busy times at the rink. Also, special events such as family fun nights or private events for individual organizations could be scheduled on days or nights that the rink would normally be closed.

Whatever it takes. We would love nothing more than to see Newport’s outdoor skating rink return as a huge success.

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