Winter in San Antonio may not typically come with snow, but this year, residents can experience a frosty landscape with the opening Friday of an outdoor ice rink downtown at Travis Park.

The rink built and operated by the Rotary Club of San Antonio is the latest seasonal addition to Travis Park, which has become a hub of downtown holiday activity in recent years.

Rotary Club President Brandon Logan said he expects to see around 25,000 skaters – plus thousands of spectatorsvisit Travis Park during the ice rink’s nine-week season, which lasts through Jan. 31, 2020. For Friday’s opening, the rink will be free to skaters from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m during the park’s tree lighting ceremony.

The platform holding the ice rink took about a week to piece together, and building and filling the rink itself took roughly three days. It can accommodate up to 150 skaters at a time, Logan said.

Bringing the rink into existence took about two years of planning and work, Logan said. When he was elected president-nominee of the nonprofit service organization, he immediately considered ways he could bring a “profound and positive impact” to San Antonio’s urban core.

“The underlying thought process was trying to understand what could bring varied cultures together,” Logan said. “I had to think, what would be that gathering place for enjoyment? And an outdoor ice skating rink came to fruition.”

With San Antonio’s variable weather in mind, Logan looked at other major Texas cities to see how they operate their open-air ice rinks. Most important to maintaining the rink is keeping the chiller set to minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit, Logan said.

During hours when the rink is closed, it will be covered with a tarp to help preserve the ice, he said.

“We’ll be in great shape,” he said. “We’re expected, next week, some days in the 60s, but for the most part [to] be in the 40s and 50s.”

Logan quipped that the ice rink would be the “coolest place in town.”

“I think we’re establishing a winter wonderland that individuals in the community can be excited about,” he said.

The ice rink’s opening date was moved up a few days to coincide with the annual Travis Park tree-lighting ceremony, sponsored by H-E-B. The showcase tree is located at Travis Park for the third year after previously occupying a prominent spot at Alamo Plaza.

“Traditionally we’ve put on this festive atmosphere from 3 to 6 p.m. when the ceremony starts,” H-E-B spokeswoman Julie Bedingfield said. “Once we were looped into what the Rotary Club was doing to bring the ice rink into Travis Park … [the Rotary Club] originally wanted to open the ice rink after the tree lighting is over, and we thought no, we should do it the same day!”

Travis Park transforms into a holiday landscape each year with support from multiple entities. The City’s Center City Development and Operations department (CCDO) planned the park’s programming, H-E-B provided the tree, and Centro – a nonprofit focused on downtown San Antonio – contributed the surrounding holiday lights at Travis Park, said Elizabeth Burt, Centro’s director of placemaking.

“This year we’ll have candy cane entrances as a new feature,” Burt said. “We’ll also have something called the singing tree, which is a tree with lights that coincide with music – whether it’s singing or clapping or playing an instrument, the tree reacts.”

Park visitors can snap a photo of themselves in a large picture frame with mistletoe tacked on top, and watch outdoor holiday movies throughout December. The park will show Elf on Dec. 3, How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Dec. 10, and Miracle on 34th Street on Dec. 17. The holiday movie series kicks off with Home Alone at 7:30 p.m. on Friday after the H-E-B tree lights the tree.

“The rink is going to add such a dynamic element to the park and we’re excited to support the Rotary Club in this effort,” Burt said. 

“This is truly a collaborative effort from multiple nonprofits and city departments to deliver a dynamic experience downtown this holiday season.”

Admission to the rink costs $10 and skate rental is $4. Proceeds will go toward Rotary Club’s community projects, such as stipends for low-income students, Logan said. Rotary Club will maintain the rink and hired an outside company to manage rentals and skater admission. 

The ice rink will be open during all types of weather unless there is lightning. Find the rink’s operating hours and other information here.

Those taking public transit to the tree-lighting ceremony Friday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. can ride for free if they tell the bus operator they’re going to Travis Park.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.