New ice skating rink outside Norris opens Tuesday

Sammy Caiola

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Rather than huddling inside and complaining about the cold, Northwestern students can now glide through winter quarter – literally.

A new ice skating rink, located on the east lawn of the Norris University Center, is set to open Tuesday afternoon, weather permitting.

President Morton Schapiro proposed building the rink before winter break, and construction began in the middle of December. Funding for the project came from “discretionary money that the president has available for this kind of thing,” said Ronald Nayler, associate vice president of facilities management.

The idea came from a student who explained that this was an old NU tradition that ended before World War II, Schapiro said. He said he didn’t know the final cost of the rink but the initial estimate was “reasonable.”

“I really hope the students enjoy!” he wrote in an e-mail.

Norris was the logical location because it already had the existing amenities in place, said David Grosskopf, Norris’ project and facilities manager.

Skating is free for students with their own equipment, but skates can be rented from Norris Outdoors. The cost is $3 for students with a WildCard, $5 for faculty and staff and $7 for guests of students, faculty and staff. Skates can also be rented on a long-term basis for $12 per day.

Several warning signs around the rink forbid skating on the lagoon, and a small fence surrounds the perimeter of the ice. The unstaffed rink’s hours will mirror those of Norris, which is open from 8 a.m. to midnight on Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to midnight on Sunday.

“The reality is this is an unstaffed rink that will be open access whenever the ice is in skating condition,” said Rick Thomas, executive director of Norris.

This will be the first outdoor rink at NU in more than a decade, Nayler said. The rink will also be open to the Evanston public, though non-NU guests will not be able to rent skates. Ice hockey will not be permitted.

“The premise is that it is not reservable for exclusive use,” Thomas said. “If a student organization wants to hold an event that is still open and free, we can do that.”

In addition to providing a diversion for students and residents, the project will also be beneficial to Dance Marathon, an event that also occurs on the East Lawn. The rink will be deconstructed toward the end of February, but the grading done to the lawn will make the raising of the DM tent easier.

“We’re excited about the ice rink,” said Jackie Willens, Communication senior and DM Productions co-chair. “Norris is being really supportive of DM and it shouldn’t pose a problem.”

The University sent an e-mail to students Dec. 23 to inform them about the rink and encourage them to bring ice skates back to campus, stating that “one of the best ways to survive winter in Evanston is to play in it.”

“I think it’s great that the university is acknowledging that winter quarter sucks, and they’re trying to make it more fun,” said Sean Brennan, a Communication junior.

Brian Rosenthal contributed reporting.