After weather delays, Howard Park opens Ice-Skating Rink for 2020 season

NOW: After weather delays, Howard Park opens Ice-Skating Rink for 2020 season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Unseasonably warm weather pushed back Howard Park's Ice-Skating Rink for weeks, but Friday park officials were finally able to open the rink for the 2020 season. The delays did not drive people away, as the first day saw a sold-out crowd. The line to get in to the park stretched almost a block down St. Louis Boulevard. Park officials said opening the rink is a relief.

"We're very excited," said South Bend Venues, Parks and Arts Director of Recreation Jonathan Jones We're finally able to open Howard Park Ice Trail for our first day for the season. We were hoping to get it open a little bit earlier this season. I'm not complaining about the warm weather, but it caused some delays. So, we're excited to be out here today."

Howard Park opening its skating rink drew skaters from out of town like Jessica Deesh who came to Howard Park with her kids from Wheatfield, Indiana because the pandemic forced the skating rinks near her to remain shut down. Deesh said the other skaters she saw really stood out to her.

"There are some really young, obviously hockey players that are just skating laps around me," Deesh said.

Deesh's son acknowledged there were some four-year-olds who were skating faster than him.

2020 is going to be a different experience for skaters at Howard Park with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

"We're working really hard to make sure we can even have skating this year in lieu of all the different health concerns that are going on right now," Jones said. "So, some of the big things are, one, facemasks. Facemasks are now required all throughout the entire park, even when on the ice skating. Secondly we also have times or reservation skating sessions that need to be reserved in advance online."

The restrictions were not taking away from any excitement Friday.

"It's fun," said Eden who skated competitively before the pandemic. "It's just nice to finally be able to skate again. I've missed it, and I don't think I realized how much I missed it until I was able to finally skate again."

The safety precautions made Deesh feel more comfortable bringing her kids to the rink.

"I actually feel very comfortable," Deesh said. "We all feel very comfortable. We were able to buy the tickets online which was nice. It actually included skate rentals. So, that was great, too. They were very particular about our lines as we were coming in. So, that was good."

Park officials said they hope the rink opening will give people a break from the stresses of 2020.

"We know that people really need a respite right now from 2020," Jones said. "It's been a really tough year. So, we're excited to be able to just have the opportunity for people to get out, enjoy themselves, have fun and have some exercise. This is paramount to our community. So, we're just happy to be able to provide this."

Park officials said you can reserve your time to skate online. That way they can make sure the rink stays at proper capacity.

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