Students hoping to slip and slide on the ice this winter have to look no further than Duke of Gloucester Street. Friday, Nov. 20 marked the official opening of the Liberty’s Ice Pavilion, the first real-ice rink constructed in Colonial Williamsburg. The rink was constructed in partnership with the Dominion Foundation.
The grand opening centered on a symbolic ribbon cutting organized by Director of Revolutionary City Tim Sutphin. President of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Mitchell Reiss and CEO of Dominion Resources and chairman of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Board of Trustees Thomas Farell cut the ribbon. Colonial Williamsburg’s official mascot, Liberty, was present for the event. The evening also included a performance by the Bruton Parish Church choir, an appearance by a George Washington reenactor, and an 18th century ice skating exhibition. The opening coincided with that of Market House, a reconstructed colonial marketplace.
“We just wanted to make [the ceremony] short and make it exciting and get folks pumped about the first ice rink in Williamsburg that’s real ice,” Sutphin said.
Many business owners in Merchant Square, who wrote a letter to City Council expressing their hopes that the ice rink would bring business to the area, supported the creation of the Liberty’s Ice Pavilion. Colonial Williamsburg officials shared their hopes.
“I think this brings a new audience in. They’ll come to Merchant Square and hopefully they’ll shop. Hopefully, they’ll come here and spend their time skating,” Sutphin said.
Colonial Williamsburg has tried to expand its use of Duke of Gloucester Street before through a 2013 expansion of the Revolutionary City program, but was rebuked in a 2-2-1 vote. The City Council appears to be much more positive about this initiative, which was approved 4-0 with one councilman abstaining.
Foot traffic will still be possible through Duke of Gloucester Street, although the annual Christmas Parade will be rerouted to end in Merchants Square and begin at the College of William and Mary instead of the other way around. Colonial Williamsburg will work with city officials to divert foot traffic for other large events that will occur while the Liberty’s Ice Pavilion is in operation.
“I am very supportive of the new energy and innovation coming from the administration at Colonial Williamsburg,” Williamsburg City Councilman Scott Foster ’10 said in an email. “This project was very well thought out and Colonial Williamsburg’s staff were very accommodating to the concerns of City Staff.”
The initiative was pioneered by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which supplied capital for the pavilion’s creation. Magic USA, a government contracting firm based in Florida, will operate and maintain the rink. It remains to be seen whether or not the Liberty’s Ice Pavilion will become a part of Colonial Williamsburg’s annual winter programming.
“The City’s only role was to approve a permit for use of the space in Duke of Gloucester Street. All other work and investment has been by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation,” Foster said.
The ice rink has attracted student patrons as well.
“The ice skating rink is really neat and not many campuses across the country have something like this so it just makes you realize that William and Mary is a pretty amazing place,” Daniel McNeil ’19 said.
The ice rink will be open through Feb. 29, 2016.