FORT WORTH — The holiday season may be extra cool this season in Fort Worth, especially for those who enjoy ice skating.And were not talking about skating at some indoor shopping mall. Were talking about skating outdoors, in the fresh air on a rink with a view of the downtown skyline.The Trinity River Vision Authority board on Wednesday approved a plan to install an outdoor skating rink named Panther Island Ice in the canteen area of the Coyote Drive-In theater just north of downtown Fort Worth. The rink will open daily Nov. 22 through Jan. 5 seven days a week, including holidays and will cater to families wishing to celebrate the holiday season by skating together.Although Dallas-Fort Worth has had its share of indoor ice rinks over the years including the one frequented by generations of residents on the bottom floor of the now-closed Tandy Center in the heart of downtown the Panther Island Ice is believed to be the citys first commercial outdoor rink, officials said.People in Fort Worth have memories of being in New York and skating. It has sentimental value. And now they can do that in Fort Worth, said Matt Oliver, authority spokesman.A company known as Ice Rink Events will operate the ice rink. The Trinity River Vision Authority on Wednesday voted unanimously to provide $99,000 in funding to help get Ice Rink Events started.The money will be repaid to the authority, which is in the midst of redeveloping the near north side of the city, in the form of skate rentals and sponsorships, said J.D. Granger, authority executive director.Although the Metroplex can experience freezing temperatures during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays, its also not uncommon for the daytime highs to be seasonably warm with temperatures sometimes in the 60s or even 70s.Even so, technology has made it possible to keep the two-inch layer of ice on an outdoor rink smooth and hard, regardless of the weather.Were going to put 150 tons of cooling, a big refrigerator out there thats going to chill the ice down to zero degrees Fahrenheit, said Mike Clayton, Ice Rink Events president. In tubing we run lots of anti-freeze flowing back and forth to the chiller, and we spray water on top of that tubing and with the chiller running at zero degrees its going to freeze ice in Fort Worth, Texas.Entry to the skating rink will be free, but skating will cost $10 per person a fee that includes skate rentals. Those visiting the area just to skate will be asked to park in a lot just outside the drive-in theater entrance.The Coyote Drive-In also will continue to show movies during the holidays, and movie-goers will be able to mingle with skaters as they walk to and from the canteen and restrooms. The area where the ice rink will be installed is covered with a canopy. During the warmer months, it is filled with tables and chairs, providing a shady area for patrons to eat and drink fare purchased at the canteen.Other North Texas cities have experimented with the concept of outdoor ice skating rinks. Frisco installed an outdoor rink during the 2011 Christmas season. Also, officials in Dallas are planning an outdoor rink made with synthetic ice later this year at the Klyde Warren deck park near that citys downtown, according to various news reports.Ice Rink Events is no stranger to outdoor facilities in the south. The company also helped create Discovery Green, an outdoor facility in Houston, authority officials said.The company hopes to tap into Fort Worths history of ice skating, Clayton said.The Tandy Center had one of the most successful ice rinks in the county, Clayton said. But this outdoor, seasonal ice rink on Panther Island will really capture peoples hearts. Seasonal programs such as appearances by Santa Claus also are expected.Students, active-duty military and large groups will be offered discounts.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson