WAUSAU — There will be no ice rinks on school grounds for the 2017-2018 season, marking the end of an era of outdoor playground rinks in Wausau.
Decades ago, the city poured rinks at a number of local elementary schools, providing free outdoor recreational opportunities for neighborhood children. But the number of rinks diminished over the years, and last year, outdoor skating was limited to The 400 Block, Marathon Park and Riverview School. This year, the Riverview rink is being eliminated, officials said.
School Board President Lance Trollop said he believed there was a joint decision by the parks department and school district administration not to flood the rink this winter.
“It is not something used during the school day or for any school activity,” Trollop said.
But council member Pat Peckham, who is also on the city’s parks and recreation committee, said school Larry Cihlar, director of buildings and grounds for the Wausau School District, simply announced to city officials there would be no rink. Without district permission, the city cannot pour a rink on school property, Peckham said.
“Parks staff, to my knowledge, were only reacting to Mr. Cihlar’s position,” Peckham wrote, in an email to Wausau Pilot and Review.
“Park & Rec learned of Mr. Cihlar’s position and communicated clearly to neighborhood rink advocates that we would direct staff to establish a rink in another location if someplace suitable could be found,” Peckham wrote.
Last year, the Wausau School District had determined the Riverview rink was no longer a good fit for the school, due to playground renovations. But the school’s principal and neighborhood residents disagreed, asking parks officials to reconsider.
The rink was poured, and parents say the ice was well used. But Larry Cihlar, director of buildings and grounds at the Wausau School District, said the rink creates headaches for the district by killing the grass.
“A lot of people are supportive of ice rinks, but those who are are usually older people who are pining for that Norman Rockwell scene,” Cihlar said. “The fact is, kids don’t skate on outdoor ice rinks anymore.”
Cihlar said the warming house at Riverview will be converted into storage space.
Relocating the rink to a nearby cemetery was proposed, but the city is unable to pour a rink on property outside of the city limits, officials said.
A group of Riverview parents continue to discuss ways to save the rink, including finding a new location for the ice and asking school officials to reconsider.