Hartford's XL Center To Open For Ice Skating Dec. 23
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
December 07, 2012
HARTFORD —— The Connecticut Whale's ice rink will be open for a rare, free public skating session on the Sunday before Christmas, officials said Friday.
The XL Center plans to make the session an annual part of Hartford's Winterfest, said Chuck Steedman, senior vice president and general manager of AEG Connecticut.
The skating hours will be noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 23. People should bring their own skates.
The rink has occasionally been opened for Whale season ticketholders, but organizers said this is the first time — at least since the former Hartford Civic Center became known as the XL Center five years ago — that there will be open skating for the public.
"Isn't it nice to let us use our investment this year?" said Michael McGarry, a Hartford Republican, shortly after he learned the news Friday.
McGarry has advocated for public skating at the rink for about two decades. He took on the issue as a city councilman in the 1990s, but the idea was always shot down, he said. "Various management companies have said it's too much trouble."
The city owns the center, which opened in 1975, and it is currently managed and operated by AEG.
"Just look at it as a facility that services the citizens of Hartford and the people who work downtown," said McGarry, who wants public skating to become a regular attraction at XL Center. "If they wanted to do it, they could."
Tim Kemp, XL Center's marketing director, said management is open to the idea and plans to evaluate turnout on Dec. 23 before proceeding.
"Absolutely," Kemp said Friday. "I don't see any reason why we're not going to consider that."
AEG also hopes to draw new fans to the Whale, a team in the American Hockey League. Players, coaches and Pucky the mascot will be at the rink during the free skating session.
All visitors will get a Whale ticket voucher that can be redeemed during the 2012-13 season.
Free ice skating is offered daily at Bushnell Park until Winterfest ends on Jan. 21. Rink hours are noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays to Thursdays and noon to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There are also free skate rentals.
So far, an estimated 15,000 people per week have visited Winterfest since it opened the day after Thanksgiving, according to Mayor Pedro Segarra.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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