Skate expectations: Downtown, SomerSplash ice rinks to offer wintry fun

Nov. 25—If you're a fan of ice skating, there's a lot to be thankful for in Somerset this year.

Last year, the community went from being a place with virtually no skating options to a place with two — and that will be the case again come Christmas 2022, as "Skating on the Square" and "Tiki's Winter Wonderland" are both back starting next week.

"Skating on the Square" will bring a synthetic ice rink to the Judicial Center plaza, right in the heart of downtown Somerset, starting Thursday, December 1, to go along with the annual tree-lighting ceremony. It will also be up and running for the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 3, and will go through December 30 on every day weather allows except for Christmas Day.

The rink was the result of efforts by the 2019 Leadership Lake Cumberland class. Every year, the Leadership Lake Cumberland program's members work on a specific project, and for 2021, they provided an affordable ice skating option for the town to enjoy. It wasn't just a one-time thing, however; those who conceived and put the project together plan on it becoming a local holiday tradition.

"Last year, it was a huge success," said Ben Robertson, who spearheaded the project along with Anne Montgomery. "We were delighted with how it went and were able to donate a lot of money back to local charities. ... It was too good a community event not to bring back. There was never any questions of whether we do it again, because in our minds, it brought something to downtown Somerset that had never been there before, and it was really cool to see kids and families out there every night, just enjoying skating. For most of these folks, it was skating for the first time."

The main beneficiary was the new Veterans Park, being built on the corner of North Main and West Oak Street; around $20,000 went to that project. Overall, the skating venue brought in about $25,000. Much of that went to the various civic organizations that volunteered to work there for a night overseeing things in exchange for revenue from the time they worked.

Cost is $5 for adults, $3 for children, a price point that Robertson said was "spot on" — "So many people said, 'Wow, you could charge more,' but our goal was to give the opportunity to as many people in Somerset to skate (as possible) and that's what we saw, it was absolutely accessible to everybody in Somerset."

The rink uses synthetic ice — Robertson has said it's similar to what professional ice athletes use in their home gyms, and isn't much different from actual ice — and is about 50-feet-by-30-feet in size.

"Once the rink was up and people could come and see it and tried it out, they had a different appreciation for it," said Robertson.

Robertson said there may be more community partners working the event and opportunities to advertise their services. Sponsorships are also key, and Montgomery says they're going well.

"We've had quite a few of our sponsors from 2021 recommit," she said. "I've had a couple of new sponsors this year. United Cumberland Bank is our title sponsor; they were the first one to commit and they took the big spot, so we're thrilled to have them as our title sponsor. We still have some spots open and I'm trying to get those filled by Monday."

Those interested in sponsoring Skating on the Square can call Montgomery at 606-879-2871 or email amontgomery@unitedcumberland.com

Hours will be Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday 1 p.m. to 9p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

To learn more, visit "Skating on the Square" on Facebook.

"We've had a lot of community feedback, just all year long, asking, 'Are we're bringing the rink back?'" said Montgomery, who noted one social media interaction where a woman's grandson was described as "jumping up and down, he was so excited."

And while there are two ice rinks in Somerset this holiday season, Robertson thinks the town is definitely big enough for the both of them.

"The city has been a huge part of 'Skating on the Square'; they've been all in (on it)," said Robertson. "They put the rink together, helped with the maintenance overseeing it every day. They're a great partner for us. We absolutely could not do this without the city of Somerset, and I think that the two rinks don't necessarily compete. It's two different experiences. We're selling the downtown experience, the basic ice rink experience, whereas the SomerSplash ice rink is a much bigger experience. But they don't necessarily compete with each other, I don't think."

That other rink is at the SomerSplash Water Park on Ky. 2227 — "Tiki's Winter Wonderland," referencing the park's colorful mascot character. SomerSplash, owned by the City of Somerset, debuted their own ice rink in February of 2022, a little while after "Skating on the Square" first introduced the community to the joy of ice skating. But this year, they're ready to roll — or make that skate — for the start of the holiday season.

Tiki's Winter Wonderland will open Saturday, December 3, going through the end of February, and SomerSplash Manager Stephen Sims is expecting it to be a hot ticket all winter long.

"We're trying to give (the community something during) that time of year where a lot of times we don't have anything (going on)," he said. "(Those who attended earlier this year) really enjoyed it. They said they were glad to see that Somerset had something like that, and with it being actual real ice, they liked the way that it felt. It was different, and a lot of individuals who had been in New York or places like that, Chicago, it said it gives them that feel from back home."

The SomerSplash rink is 2,100 square feet, approximately, uses real ice, and there will be concessions available, noted Sims.

Price for the experience is $15 plus tax, but those who have season passes either for last summer or the coming 2023 SomerSplash water park season, will get $3 off that admission price. Skating is an hour-and-a-half session for that price, including skate rental. For those just wanting to walk through, see the lights, and visit the vendors, it's $4 a person entry fee.

The park will operate the rink Wednesdays through Sundays; sessions and times will differ. When school is out on Mondays and Tuesdays, it will also be open on those days, said Sims.

"We are also doing lights; we are really decorating up the water park," he said. "What we're doing is a Winter Workshop, renting out the cabanas that we have around the activity pool; people are renting those out for crafts and that kind of thing. We're starting to fill those up now."

For more information, visit somersplash.com online.

"We've been working late at night, trying to put up Christmas lights and decorating and everything," said Sims. "I think people are going to be amazed at what we've done with the water park."