BENTONVILLE -- The Rink at Lawrence Plaza will be filled this weekend, city officials predict.
The rink opened Saturday. Its season is set to run through Feb. 11.
"Thanksgiving weekend is always busy," said David Wright, Parks and Recreation director. "When school is out, we are slammed."
Most of the activity comes from people from Benton and Washington counties, he said.
"The citizens of Northwest Arkansas enjoy it and may come two or three times a season," Wright said.
The Rink at Lawrence Plaza opened in 2009. The city Advertising and Promotion Commission rented a rink in the old Midtown Center downtown before then. That area has since been developed into a Walmart Neighborhood Market and other shops.
The 100-by-60-foot rink at 214 N.E. A St. serves as a splash pad from May to September.
A few weeks before the rink opened, the process started to prepare it for another season, Wright said.
A few miles of refrigerated lines sit under the plaza's concrete base. Those lines brought the concrete temperature to 4 to 8 degrees. Water hoses were used to build an ice base of about 2 inches. The surface was then painted white to reflect the sun, Wright said.
The rink holds 45-minute sessions during the day. People can buy a $7 session ticket that includes skate rental, or a family rink pass costs $100. The family pass will allow families to reserve tickets online at no charge for six tickets per session for one session a day and includes skates, according to the rink website. The family pass is good for the entire season and there is no limit on the number of days it can be used during the season.
There is room for 80 skaters each session, Wright said.
The rink's status will occasionally be impacted by the weather. On Monday, there was heavy rain and lightning in the area, which forced a delay.
Mike Klostermeyer of Cave Springs came to skate with his family on opening day. Klostermeyer said they came to town for the lighting of the square later that night. He heard the skating rink was opening and it was his first time to visit the amenity.
"It's just a fun opportunity for the family, and it's something unique," he said.
Zane Kaiser of Rogers said he loves the activities in downtown Bentonville such as First Friday.
Kaiser said his family also came for the lighting on the square, and he wanted to introduce his 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, to ice skating.
"She's never seen the lighting on the square, and she's never skated before," he said.
The rink brought in $134,655 in the 2022-23 season and $145,339 in the 2021-22 season, according to the city.
Construction of the A Street Promenade has started near Lawrence Plaza, which will mean a different feel this year, Wright said. The fenced-off construction area hugs the rink.
"You will feel it," Wright said of the construction. "We are sorry for that. But the rink is open, and you will be safe. Lawrence Plaza is different this year, but it will be different next year, too. It's a one-year inconvenience."
The promenade will connect Lawrence Plaza to the yet-to-be-built Bentonville Commons, a planned plaza/activity space, three blocks to the south.
"Lawrence Plaza will anchor the north end and create a unique sense of place," Wright said.
City Councilman Chris Sooter, then-Councilwoman and Advertising Commission member Mary Baggett and Visit Bentonville CEO and President Kalene Griffith determined the city should build a permanent ice rink, Sooter recalls.
The Advertising and Promotion Commission "was spending close to $100,000 a year on the rental for the old Harps' parking lot," Sooter said. "Knowing that it would eventually be redeveloped, it made sense to put the funds toward a permanent facility that could be used year-round for splash pad, ice rink and other events. It has been quite a success, to say the least."
The original idea was to put the rink at Dave Peel Park, Wright said.
The commission hired a firm to design what became Lawrence Plaza. The Walton family donated the land, said Wright, who took over as Parks and Recreation director in October 2008.
There were a few years when there was no ice skating as the city transitioned from a rental rink to Lawrence Plaza.
Lawrence Plaza was a $1.9 million project with the commission contributing $1 million plus design costs and the city taking care of the balance, Wright said.
"It has been a great investment for the city," he said.
About the plaza
Lawrence Plaza is named after Ernest G. Lawrence, who served as Bentonville mayor from 1970 to 1974. Lawrence was a founding board member of the Helen R. Walton Childrens Enrichment Center and the Peel House Foundation, which later became the Peel Compton Foundation. He also served on the Bentonville School Board and was a member of the Bentonville Rotary Club.
Source: City of Bentonville