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Elgin City Skate reopens

Public Works employee Jeff Lewis mixes solutimake ice November 19 2012 during assembly refrigerated ice rink Civic Center Plazdowntown Elgin.

Public Works employee Jeff Lewis mixes a solution to make ice November 19, 2012, during the assembly of the refrigerated ice rink at the Civic Center Plaza in downtown Elgin. November 19, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 30, 2012 3:41PM

ELGIN — Amy French, 17, of Elgin has been skating at City Skate downtown in the Civic Center Plaza “as long as I’ve been able to skate” — and she’s been skating since she was “really little,” she said.

The Elgin High School student can’t do too much on the ice — just some spins, she said — but she was eager to get back out there after Elgin’s outdoor skating rink was closed by the city last winter in a cost-saving move. She laced up her skates Wednesday with her schoolmate Nora Stanley, 17, of Elgin, in the warming center next to the rink, one of the first six people on the ice just an hour after it opened at 4 p.m. that day.

The opening comes about a week later than usual — just ahead of the rink’s grand opening along with the Elgin Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony on Saturday in the plaza next to The Hemmens Cultural Center at 45 Symphony Way.

Elgin Recreation and Facilities Superintendent Maria Cumpata said that’s likely something many more Elgin-area residents than just French are happy to see return, as more than 5,000 skaters have visited City Skate each year since it opened a decade ago.

“It is used very well, and there’s not a lot of places to do outdoor skating anymore, so a lot of people enjoy that,” she said.

There aren’t any that are free, either, according to French, who said she “just sat around” without the rink last winter.

City Skate now will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Feb. 24 — dependent on the weather, Cumpata said.

The rink, while refrigerated, still can be closed by warm weather or rain, which makes it difficult to maintain the ice, she said. But it also can be kept open longer on a day-by-day or week-by-week basis if cold weather continues into March, she said.

The warming center at City Skate will be open 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays, according to the superintendent.

Skating is free, and the city also offers skate rentals for $4 and private and group skating lessons for a fee, she said. Skate rentals will be free all day this Saturday, as part of the city’s holiday kickoff celebration, according to Elgin Program Coordinator Stephanie Horist.

At least 5,526 skaters visited City Skate in winter 2010-11, the last it was open, the city of Elgin has said. That was a drop from 6,362 the year before, probably because of the weather that season.

Skate rentals brought in $17,037 that year, the city has said. Meantime, operational costs for the downtown ice sheet have run between $30,000 and $41,000 each calendar year since the rink opened in 2002, it has said.

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