City officials blame weather for drop in Main Street Ice attenda - - Columbia, South Carolina

City officials blame weather for drop in Main Street Ice attendance


Columbia Parks and Recreation officials blame the weather for a significant drop in visitors to the ice rink on Main Street this year.

"It rained every single weekend, every day of the weekend," Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Caton told City Council members.

Attendance dropped from 15,245 in the 2012-2013 season to 8,888 visitors this past year. The ice rink on Boyd Plaza in front of the Columbia Museum of Art operated seven fewer days in the 2013-2014 season from the previous year. The extra week in 2012 was due to the earlier date of Thanksgiving, when the rink opened.

"The weather was the worst-case scenario this year," Caton said.

The city lost $102,000 operating the rink this past year, but officials planned for a loss of $125,000 in the budget.  According to numbers provided to council Tuesday, it cost the city about $30,000 less in operating costs from the previous year.  Some of that decrease is due to a cheaper contract with the management company.  The city decided to staff the rink with its own employees this past season rather than pay the management company for staffing.

Unlike the inaugural year, Hospitality Tax funds were not used to support Main Street Ice this season. Money for the rink came from the city's general fund.

Council member Leona Plaugh is concerned about the fiscal responsibility off the loss.

"I think it's a wonderful amenity, but how much is too much?" she asked. "We need to review the numbers."

Next season, Caton is anticipating residents of The Hub student housing community opening on Main Street will boost visitors.

"The Hub is on our radar," he said.

In November, Randy Davis, who was the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation at the time, told the council that because of start-up costs, the first year of operation would be the most expensive, and costs were expected to drop in the following years.

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