The Downtown Neenah Plaza Provides a Year-Round Gathering Place for the Community


Photo by: Unknown

An aerial view of the Plaza from its official website

Braiden Blank, Student of Journalism

Most students have been to or heard of the Titletown Ice Rink in Green Bay. For the past couple of years, I would convince my friends to pack up and drive 45 minutes away with me to enjoy skating on the ice rink for the night.
This year, however, I did not have to drive 45 minutes to have a wonderful time ice skating with my good friends. On Oct. 30, downtown Neenah hosted the grand opening of the new Plaza.

My task is to provide insight into the features such as the ice rink and coffee shop that can be found at The Plaza because it provides a gathering place for the community.

The Plaza offers so many opportunities for fun and relaxation. The ice rink may be considered its main feature: a $7 million attraction designed to replicate the one at Rockefeller Center in New York City. It also includes the Globe Coffee shop and three fire pits and seating areas. Even though the ice rink will only be open from November until March, the Plaza will remain open year-round as a space for local residents to hang out and enjoy themselves. Opportunities will exist during the months without ice for the Plaza to host events like small concerts, art fairs, evening movies and even exercise classes.

“The Plaza has a beautiful scenery,” says senior Kimberli Dorsey. “It’s like a Hallmark movie!”

The ice rink is surrounded by 62,000 brick pavers. In order to prevent the accumulation of snow and ice, all of the pavers are heated. The seating areas and fireplaces surrounding the rink, open to the public during skating hours and during other times upon request. People are able to toast their own marshmallows with S’more trays that can be purchased for $8.

“It’s a great place for the community,” were the words of senior Lizzy Jungwirth, who works at the Plaza as a barista in the coffee shop as well as in the skate shop. “Many people that have come leave happy.”

The Plaza serves as not only a new attraction but also as a staple for Neenah. It will boost the spirits of the Neenah community as well as help local businesses to thrive.

According to The Plaza’s official website, while general admission includes a cost of $5 for kids and $8 for adults (18+) with an additional cost of $5 for skate rentals, its coffee shop is free to the public at any time. Free parking is available to the public and a daily waiver is required for ice skating.

The Plaza is exactly what this city needed to create a cozy atmosphere for downtown Neenah. The beautifully crafted designs of the sculptures scattered throughout the Plaza also contribute to this warm feeling. I did some additional research on the art via a local newspaper article.  The Post-Crescent detailed a listing of interesting things about The Plaza.  My favorite pieces of trivia specific to the art and architecture follow:

  • The Douglas fir beams throughout The Plaza were harvested in Oregon, fabricated in Colorado and finished in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
  • The large granite stone at the entrance is a duplicate of one at Rockefeller Center. The stone weighs 12,000 pounds and is engraved with the credo of John D. Rockefeller Jr. It was quarried in South Africa and finished at Twin City Monument Works.
  • The sculpture above the main fireplace is titled “The Chief” by artist Vala Ola. It depicts Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota (Sioux) holy man and healer.
  • The two bronze sculptures at the entrance to the Manor Haus are titled “Chief Washakie” and “Appeal to the Great Spirit.” They were cast from Cyrus E. Dallin’s originals.
  • The sculpture inside the Manor Haus is titled “Joyful Empowerment” by artist Angela Mia De la Vega.

Though the holiday season only accounts for a portion of the year, the Plaza will continue to lift the spirits of members of the Neenah community year-round.