Baseball. Kickball. And now ice skating.
Kokomo Municipal Stadium, under a thin layer of snow Wednesday evening, Christmas lights adorning its grandstands and second deck, has again been adapted – this time to feature a winter attraction not seen in the city for more than two decades.
Wednesday represented opening night for The Frozen Sandlot, a 60-foot-by-90-foot rink situated along the first-base-dugout, stretching toward the park’s backstop. It will be open through Jan. 13.
On the stadium's scoreboard – lest anyone forget where they were – was the rink's logo: a baseball diamond embellished with blue grass and snowflakes for bases and a pair of ice-skates covering second base and short center field.
Open to the public, the skating rink is without question this winter’s most anticipated activity, and it even comes, to the relief of many parents, with a warming station and wide drink selection.
The first family to hit the ice Wednesday was the Clements, including husband Dave and wife Wendie and their two daughters, 10-year-old Grace and 4-year-old Eiley.
Winners of a Facebook contest, the family, from Logansport, skated onto the freshly-worked rink shortly before 5 p.m., breaking through a Frozen Sandlot sign held, in part, by Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight.
The rink, said Dave Clements, a former roller-blader but self-admitted ice skating novice, was nothing but positive about what he called “a great experience for our family.”
And it was, he noted, the first time skating for both of his girls.
“My youngest has been nothing but giggles the whole time,” he remarked. “This is too much fun to not come back.”
Following Wednesday’s opening night, and Thursday’s regular hours from 5 to 10 p.m., will be a First Friday grand opening, when the rink will be open from 5 to 11 p.m.
The rink features real ice, unlike other temporary rinks which utilize artificial or synthetic ice-like materials.
Installed by a vendor, with support from the city’s parks department, it uses electric chillers to keep the ice frozen throughout the season. A mini-Zamboni-like device will apply water and smooth the ice daily.
Notably, the city is partnering with a local nonprofit, Bridges Outreach, which will staff and operate the rink and keep the proceeds from ticket sales. The nonprofit serves hundreds of at-risk kids through tutoring and after-school programs and mentorships.
In addition, concessions during skating hours will be available. A portion of the proceeds from concession sales will go to Bridges Outreach as well.
Admission is $10 for skaters and includes skate rental and $2 for non-skaters. Coupons for a $5 discount will be available at local businesses as well as online at www.thefrozensandlot.com. A list of the businesses offering coupons, along with a full schedule of skating times, is available on the website.
The last public skating rink in the city was located at Delco Park, just east of Ind. 931 off of Sycamore. That closed more than 20 years ago.
Now, though, the city has a much more unique offering, with ice skates lining the entirety of the first-base dugout and tables set up along the home plate side of the rink, providing spectators a place to sit, eat and drink.
On the concourse is a photo station with a Frozen Sandlot backdrop, framed by fake lighted Christmas trees and a snowman replica.
For Scott Bride, a Kokomo resident whose 6-year-old daughter, Avery, zipped across the ice in a full hockey uniform, helping to steady slipping and sliding skaters five times her age, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Avery, her dad explained, is trained by Indy Fuel defenseman Zach Miskovic and the father-daugher duo travels twice a week to Indianapolis for hockey practice and games.
The ice has now been brought to them.
“This is great for the kids,” said Scott, complimenting the prepping and quality of the ice. “This is a win-win, period.
“If I was a millionaire I’d put a (permanent) ice rink in here right now.”