After drawing tens of thousands of skaters and onlookers to downtown's Triangle Park during the recent holiday season, organizers closed the Unified Trust Co. Ice Rink on Sunday and began dismantling it Thursday.
Steve Grossman, president of the Triangle Foundation, estimated that 18,000 skaters took to the ice during the outdoor rink's second year in operation. Four times as many people stopped to watch, he said. Grossman said there were about 21,000 skaters last year.
"There were slightly less people this year, but attendance was steadier. It was a nice steady flow of people," he said. "Last year, sometimes there would be huge lines, and then sometimes you would have nobody."
Crews from Ice Rink Events, a national company specializing in constructing ice rinks, dismantled the panels and flooring around the ice rink Thursday.
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Crew member Gwen Ingles said that because of recent rain that froze on top of the original ice, the ice is now more than 10 inches thick, so the crew decided to let the ice melt naturally rather than try to break it apart with sledgehammers. In about a week, a crew will return to finish dismantling the rink.
The panels will be stored in the Lexington Center.
The ice rink opened and closed about three weeks earlier than last year, Grossman said. Last year, it closed on Jan. 29.
"We basically just shifted it forward a couple weeks ... to take advantage of pre-Christmas excitement," he said. "Once the kids went back to school (last year), the skating numbers dropped off pretty drastically."
The outdoor café that serves concessions to Triangle Park visitors also was closed this week. It will re-open in March.