North Platte’s new ice rink opened over the weekend to more than 200 skaters who showed their stuff, tested their ability, or started to get the hang of it.

The opening capped a month of extended efforts to create ice in the rink, which is located near the center of Centennial Park. The effort was challenged by supply chain delays and the equipment failure of the first “chiller”, a large, mobile refrigeration unit that pumps cold liquid through hundreds of tubes beneath the ice.

Organizers were all smiles Saturday and Sunday, happy with the condition of the ice and the turnout on opening weekend. Several open skating sessions were held, as well as broomball, a game that is similar to ice hockey but without the skates, played with a broom and a ball.

Some of the action Sunday night, Jan. 15.

BLu McGrath, who worked for more than two years to raise funds and open the skating rink, said Sunday night that at times the number of skaters exceeded the number of certain sizes of skates for rent. An extra public skating session was scheduled Sunday night in response to demand.

Skaters displayed all abilities, from to first-timers to the experienced, and came in all ages, from a three-year-old girl to Peggy and Jeff Orr of Hershey, a farm couple in their 60s.

“It has exceeded expectations for opening weekend,” McGrath said. He is a former resident of Wyoming with more than 20 years of experience in ice rink management. He is also encouraged by the number of volunteers who have offered to help, as well as many donors.

Several experienced ice hockey players came to “drop in” hockey sessions, and McGrath gave away free lessons on Monday. Drop-in ice hockey sessions will be held this year, with organized leagues envisioned next year.

Ice hockey player Liam Bargell, 13.

McGrath plans to keep the ice rink in operation into March if the weather permits. during the summer, the equipment and sides will be removed and placed in storage. Scheduled events and sessions are available on the NPIce Facebook, HERE.

Public skating is $8 a session. Season passes are $65. Skates rent for $3 a pair.

Donations range from $100 to $2,000, he said.

McGrath was especially happy on the first weekend with the donated use of a Kubota tractor and snow box wiper from Tad Haneborg to keep the ice smooth, saving the cost of a mini-Zamboni, as well as the work of Roberts and Sons Plumbing, who spent several hours installing the refrigeration system.

Major donors include Dunkin’ Doughnuts, Sandhills Physical Therapy, Meyer Creative, Great Plains Health, Great Plains Foot & Ankle Specialists, Western Nebraska Bank, Nebraskaland Bank, First Interstate Bank, Weathercraft, Fat Dogs, The White House Comprehensive Dentistry, Coyote Lake Ranch, The Wellness Journey, First Nebraska Financial Services, Kubota, Midlands Family Medicine, The North Platte Jaycees, Keenan Management, Papa Murphy’s, Runza, Snell Services, John Cummings Construction, Steele’s Roofing and Construction, Jake and Stephanie Weisen, Hamilton Builders, Roberts and Sons Plumbng, and many other businesses and individuals.

He said the fund-raising effort, which included a $50,000 grant from the city’s quality growth funds, has generated $206,000 so far, out of a budgeted $250,000. He was encouraged by the number of paying customers on opening weekend but more donations would be welcome.

For a video of the scene on Saturday night, click HERE.

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