‘Energy on Ice’ coming downtown

From 2004 to 2011, BB&T Plaza at the RiverPark Center became a giant skating rink, part of downtown’s “Winter Wonderland.”

The event drew an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people to downtown between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day each year.

But it got to be too expensive and ended after eight years.

On Nov. 27, a new version — “Energy on Ice” — will be staged on McConnell Plaza near the Owensboro Convention Center.

The $105,000 price tag is being picked up by Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, Atmos Energy, Boardwalk Pipelines and the Staton Family Foundation.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Lelan Hancock, assistant city manager, said Thursday. “There was quite a bit of interest when it was at the RiverPark Center. I think there will be this time too.”

In March, just before the coronavirus pandemic reached Owensboro, Fred Reeves and David Johnson, owners of A+ Leadership, told a meeting of We Are Downtown to expect an announcement in “a couple of weeks” about a major event that would run six weeks in the winter.

The pandemic slowed the announcement until Thursday.

Most of the 12,900-square-foot plaza at the RiverPark Center was filled with the skating rink.

The new one is smaller — about 4,800 square feet.

“That was real ice at the RiverPark Center,” Hancock said. “This is synthetic. Rain doesn’t melt synthetic ice, so we’ll have less downtime. But it responds almost exactly like ice for skating. It’s a really neat product. It should be a real generator for downtown traffic.”

Laura Alexander, general manager of the convention center, said there’s another advantage to the synthetic ice.

Can be used in summer“The RiverPark Center had to rent the equipment each year,” she said. “But we bought this. We can put it up in 85-degree weather. If a convention wants an ice-skating night in the summer, we can do it. It’s something unique that most cities don’t have.”

Hancock said “Energy on Ice” will be available on Fridays from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. from Nov. 27 until the first of the year.

“If there’s enough demand, we can adjust the end date,” he said.

Skates will be available to rent.

The cost will be $8 to $10 to skate including skate rental.

Hancock said the rink will hold 15 to 20 skaters during pandemic restrictions or 30 to 40 when the pandemic is over.

“We’re always looking for things to bring people downtown,” he said. “It’s a winner for Owensboro.”

He said, “The sponsors are the reason we can do this.”

Candance Castlen Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, said the energy companies joined with the city, Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, convention center and the chamber to bring the event to Owensboro.

“We wanted to form a unique partnership to bring outdoor staking back to Owensboro and to bring people from across the community and region to our downtown,” Buzz Backstrom, vice president of marketing and business development for Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, said in a news release.

Jimmy Staton, president and chief executive officer of Southern Star, said, “Quality of life is an important value in Greater Owensboro and we are thrilled to be able to add to that.”

Mark Martin, vice president for rates and regulatory affairs at Atmos, said, “We all know that quality of life is major component in our talent recruitment and economic growth.”

Mark Calitri, CVB president, said, “The outdoor ice-skating rink will be a wonderful amenity for not only residents but visitors too. We view the rink as an incredible tourist attraction that will bring people to Owensboro to spend money thus fueling our local economy.”

The convention center will manage the ice rink, rent skates and set up food booths.

From time to time, different groups have suggested bringing back “Winter Wonderland,” an event created by the late Zev Buffman, when he was president of the RiverPark Center.

But no one was able to find a way to make it affordable — until now.

The Kentucky Travel Industry Association listed Winter Wonderland as one of its Top 10 Festivals & Events for November through February in 2011.

In earlier years, it was also named one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events.

By: Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer