@story MARLA CANTRELL
@IMAGES DAVID WRIGHT
There aren’t that many excellent ice skaters in Arkansas. But there are a lot of them. Last year, when Lawrence Plaza in Bentonville opened its outdoor ice skating rink, more than 10,000 people took to the ice to try out the winter sport.
This season, David Wright, Bentonville’s director of parks and recreation, is ready for round two. There are 370 pairs of ice skates for rent, a crew ready to get you on your feet, and dozens of holiday songs that will play on the P.A. system during your hour and fifteen minute session.
If you think that’s not long enough, you’ve probably never ice skated before. “You’re welcome to re-up and skate another session, but I don’t know many people who do,” David said. “It will wear you out. Your muscles are burning by the time you’re done. It’s great family fun and good exercise.”
David has approved every song that plays, worked out the schedule for skating, and has even come up with the perfect ratio of skater to ice. “We never have more than 220 people in the rink at one time. We are in Arkansas, where most of us haven’t done much ice skating, so most of our skaters are leaning on the rails,” David said. “The middle of the rink is fairly open. If we were all fantastic skaters, we might have to draw that number down.”
That could change in the coming years, as the little skaters start to grow up. “We had a ton of younger people come out last year. We had to go out and order more smaller skates. We had lots of four and five year olds.”
On select nights through December 21, there are free holiday movies showing on the 25-foot inflatable outdoor screen. Families come and sit in the park’s amphitheater, or gather on quilts or sit on lawn chairs to watch the classics.
It’s been a big hit. And with the newly opened Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art that is close by, David expects this year to attract an even larger crowd.
The rink will stay open until January 22, with the exception of Christmas Day.
Lawrence Plaza is just north of the Bentonville City Square, at the corner of Northeast “A” and Blake Streets. The trip from Fort Smith will take you about an hour and a half.
The cost is $5 per session, $3 is you bring your own skates.
Hours of operation are available at bentonvillear.com/parks_lawrence_plaza.html. (No skating on Christmas Day.)
“Movie Night at the Rink” will be held Dec. 3, 10, 17 and 21 at 6:30 p.m.