Downtown Neenah got a fresh breath of new life with the opening of its new plaza/ice rink area on Thursday, Oct. 28. For three hours, many Neenah residents congregated at the newly-opened facility, getting a feel for the new facilities, admiring its scenery and mingling together by the fires.
I had the pleasure of attending this ceremony in-person, and it offered many options, which peaked my interests in this local venue!
Walking in, I was faced with a commemorative stone, behind which were three identically-dressed volunteers who kindly welcomed other guests and me.
“I, personally, am incredibly excited and proud of our city to have come together. It’s just really great that today is the big day, we’re here,” were the feelings of Mrs. Lizzy Bergstrom-Auth, a guide at the entrance. Having noted the reactions of many people at the entrance, Bergstrom-Auth proclaimed,”The majority of people that have walked in said ‘wow, I can’t believe this is in Neenah,’ and I feel the same way. Every time I walk in, I feel like this is magic. I cannot wait until we’re ice-skating in a few weeks!”
Currently, the ice rink area is a walkable flat surface, on top of which were an assortment of tables and chairs, decorated in the middle by a small ice sculpture. With regards to the operation of the rink itself, Bergstrom-Auth clarified, “the week of Nov. 15, custom ice is coming from Canada, if it’s below 50 degrees (F).” (10 C) Regardless, the plaza itself is now open to all residents, which at this moment includes a large paved area, two fireplaces, and a magnificent wooden building with a built-in café, which was not yet selling beverages at the time of my visit.
By 5:30 p.m., a band began to play live music; a large section of Wisconsin Avenue was sealed off as many of the event’s visitors came to listen.
To ensure event security as well as enforce the traffic block, I noticed a significant presence of police and firefighters and vehicles in and around the plaza. Their reactions to this event, however, seemed to be the same. “It’s fantastic, I love it!” were the words of firefighter Tim Patterson. “It’ll be a great event. In wintertime, people can come to ice skate, get some coffee, sit over by the fire, very nice.”
In and around the plaza area, I observed many people carrying bags of popcorn. After wandering through the area, I found two stands, one filled with an impressive quantity of popcorn bags, another with cookies. Both were being given out to attendees for free, and so I grabbed one from both.
More than just a new attraction, the new plaza serves as an icon for Neenah, as well as something that can benefit the community and the commercial areas immediately surrounding it. Mr. Eduardo Sanchez, owner of the Solea Mexican Grill, who coordinated the food catering for the plaza’s earlier private meetings, noted that “the opening of the new facility is gonna drive traffic and of course it’s going to help local businesses.”
According to their official website, the rink will be open at 4 p.m. during the week (except Wednesdays) and close at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday. Weekend visitors can enjoy longer visit times, with the rink opening at 11 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m. on Saturday and 6 p.m. on Sunday. The café will open at 7 a.m. during the week, 8 a.m. during the weekend, and run every day until 3 p.m.