Holiday Season Outdoor Ice Skating Rink Proposed For Downtown Jax’s Riverfront

Jun 10, 2021

An outdoor ice skating rink might be coming to Downtown Jacksonville’s riverfront this holiday season, if a Downtown nonprofit can make it work.

There are still plenty of logistical details to figure out, but Downtown Vision CEO Jake Gordon is working with the Downtown Investment Authority and city officials to try to get everything in place for outdoor ice skating on the lawn that replaced the Jacksonville Landing.

The site, now called Riverfront Plaza, would get a temporary 40-foot-by-100-foot outdoor ice rink that would be open to the public from November 27 through January 8. The plaza would also be decked out in winter wonderland décor.

Gordon told WJCT News Thursday he's asking the Downtown Investment Authority to kick in $100,000 toward the project. The DIA board would have to approve that funding.

Other costs would need to be covered through sponsorships and admission charges.

“We think this is probably a $750,000 to $800,000 project. But it makes money because you sell tickets to it. So that's probably about $300,000. And so then you end up with $350,000 or so. So you end up with a gap of $400,000 that I have to fill with philanthropic means or support from the city,” said Gordon.

A preliminary cost estimate for skaters would be $18 for 90 minutes of time. An onsite skate rental station would also be available for those without their own ice skates.

Downtown Vision is looking at Ice Rinks Events as the potential vendor. The company, which bills itself as “the king of frozen water,” has built similar temporary ice rinks in cities around the world.

But it’s too soon to say whether Ice Rinks Events can fit Jacksonville into its 2021 schedule, Gordon said.

If the rink doesn’t happen in 2021, he is determined to bring it to Jacksonville in 2022, but not necessarily at Riverfront Plaza.

The plaza’s future is up in the air as the Downtown Investment Authority and city consider how it will be redeveloped.

Later this month the DIA is expected to unveil the results of a park design competition for the space, and SouthEast Development Group has floated a $1.1 billion master plan idea for Downtown that would include a mix of public green space, office space and condominium tower at Riverfront Plaza.

If Riverfront Plaza isn’t available due to landscaping or construction activity next year, then Downtown Vision would look at other riverfront locations.

Ice Rink Events set up this outdoor ice rink in Downtown Seattle.
Credit Ice Rink Events / Via Ice Rink Events

“I think this is a fantastic idea for Jacksonville," Gordon said.

Gordon, who has kids of his own, pointed out, "We all want to go see real ice. These kids have barely seen it, that grew up in Florida. All these other cities around the country have ice rinks like this, much like an outdoor concert series. It’s not really a new, novel idea, it's actually an idea a lot of other cities have embraced. And so we're trying to do that, from a Downtown Vision perspective.”

Downtown Vision is a nonprofit that commercial property owners Downtown created to revitalize a 90-block section of the Urban Core over a half-square-mile area. Right now, the agency is in the process of extending its boundaries to 1.3-square-miles, according to Downtown Vision Vice President of Marketing  Katherine Hardwick.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.