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Local residents, kids out of school and tourists will get a new treat this holiday season: ice skating at the Visitors Center downtown.
A partnership of the America In Bloom Committee and the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, the surface of artificial ice will be open for two weeks — Dec. 19 through Jan. 2.
“We’re going to be open at the time children are going to be home, during all the tourist season, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve,” said Mia Freeman, chair of the America in Bloom Committee. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children. “They get the ice skates and everything. They’re going to be able to lace up their shoes and go out there.”
The TDA welcomed the opportunity to add an attraction to fill the downtown with local shoppers and tourists.
“Travel and Tourism has been working on this whole program of ‘Home for the Holidays,’” Freeman said.
"I think it's a great new activity that we'll have," said Lew Holloway, downtown development coordinator for the city of Hendersonville and a member of the Tourism Development Authority. "It adds a really neat activity right around Christmas. I hope it's very successful that that it will draw more activity into the district. We've never had a specific dedicated attraction beyond the downtown itself."
The ice rink is another example of the increasing partnership of the city and county that has not always been the case. America in Bloom and the TDA are the main sponsors of the ice rink; they city is erecting extra decorations around the rink and in the Visitors Center block.
On the America In Bloom Committee, Freeman led efforts to incorporate as a nonprofit organization. The ice rink is a fundraiser for the local American In Bloom effort. America In Bloom sends judges to towns that want an expert evaluation on their outdoors look and commitment to beautification, from landscaping to public art to volunteerism.
The skating rink is made of 44 panels roughly 4 feet-by-8 feet each. It’s made by Ice Rink Engineering and Manufacturing, a Greenville, S.C., company that says it is the largest manufacturer of synthetic ice in the world.
“I even went down there to South Carolina to talk to the manufacturer,” Freeman said. “It’s actually safer than ice because it’s not wet. I really wanted the hockey part. It’s just too expensive. So I’m hoping next year, if we make good money, we might be able to introduce the hockey. … If it works, we’re going to do it every year.”