CARBONDALE - There's a new ice rink in Carbondale - smaller, more convenient to strolling shoppers and more family-oriented than the Gus Darien Riding Arena rink on County Road 100.
And today, the first Friday of the new year, the rink will be playing a key role as the site for a community ice-skating party from 6 to 8 p.m.
Along with cut-rate skate rentals at the nearby Carbondale Recreation and Community Center, the town is offering free hot chocolate, marshmallows and hot dogs for all participants.
The new rink, at the corner of Fourth and Main, is open until about 9 p.m. daily and will remain open as long as it stays cold enough to keep the ice frozen, said Carbondale Recreation Center manager Eric Brendlinger.
"It's just a little additional amenity for the residents of Carbondale," Brendlinger said.
The town had hoped to have the rink open and operating by the "Light Up Carbondale" First Friday on Dec. 7, he said, "But the temperatures just didn't cooperate." The rink opened Dec. 27.
Brendlinger said the idea for an in-town rink came up when town officials realized that the Gus Darien rink, which is 120 by 70 feet and laid out in the middle of the town's rodeo arena, was getting too busy.
"It's a good size for pond hockey," Brendlinger said, referring to regular hockey, broomball and other "stick sports" that take place there.
"It was just getting real busy. And with pucks and sticks and little kids learning to skate, we just had to schedule it a little tighter," he added.
And since officials were concerned because young children and inexperienced skaters might be injured if they tried to skate at the same time a game was going on, they started looking for an alternative.
The town already had a lease on the pocket park at Fourth and Main, which is about one-third the size of the Gus Darien rink and is off limits to the stick-sport crowd.
The park's owner reportedly is Bren Simon, of Aspen, who has been buying properties in Carbondale for the past year or more.
Brendlinger said Simon's attorneys told him an ice rink would be an acceptable use of the property as long as it didn't allow stick sports.
"One errant puck could do some pretty serious damage flying across Main Street," Brendlinger noted.
Town officials decided to reserve the smaller rink for families and "let the kids just learn how to skate there," Brendlinger said.
Both rinks are lighted from about 4:30 to 9 p.m., he said.
Skates are available for rent at the rec center, about a block and a half to the north on Colorado Avenue, at rates of $3 for a day or $10 for three days.
There are benches next to the rink where skaters can lace up, he added.