Plaza ice surface to open mid-December 

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Construction on the $1.4 million permanent outdoor skating rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza is ongoing, and should be completed in time for a Dec. 19 opening, the Resort Municipality of Whistler confirmed this week.

The most difficult part of the installation occurred last week. During a 17-hour process, crews poured the concrete for the skating surface, which will be artificially cooled through the winter. That concrete will cure or harden for 28 days, and has been covered with insulated tarps to ensure that the surface stays warm and holds in moisture.

Cooling pipes have already been laid into the concrete, and a permanent, energy-efficient, propylene glycol refrigeration plant is expected to arrive in late November for installation. It's capable of producing ice in temperatures as high as 10 degrees Celsius.

Operating costs are estimated to be around $60,000 a year after revenues for skate rentals and food and beverage sales.

The facility itself was funded by $1.4 million in provincial Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding, while the operating costs of maintaining the ice surface will fall to the municipality.

The surface area is much larger than last year, when a temporary ice surface and "skate path" was constructed at 11,347 square feet — about two thirds the size of the ice surface at Meadow Park Sports Centre.

There will still be a track, but the area between the track and the covered pavilion area will be covered with ice as well.

Roughly 17,000 people used the ice surface last year, with 14,000 skate rentals during that period.

An estimated 20 per cent of the users were Whistler residents. According to Tourism Whistler's winter surveys six per cent of visitors last season used the rink. That's the same number as went snowmobiling and higher numbers than zip trekkers and cross-country skiers.

Operating hours are slightly different than last year. The ice surface will run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and to 10 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and holidays. The surface will be closed from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily for maintenance and resurfacing, using a new ice surface purchased by the municipality.

More information on the rink is available online at www.whistler.ca/olympic-plaza.

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