CROWN POINT —When the Bulldog Park ice rink opened a little over two weeks ago, Crown Point Mayor David Uran knew it would be a hit for the Lake County community – he just didn’t anticipate how huge a hit the NHL-sized rink would become in such a short time.
“When we initially held the groundbreaking in May there was a lot of excitement, so we knew we would have a big opening night,” Uran said. “We didn’t expect the opening night numbers would be similar every day throughout the rest of winter break.”
Since its opening Dec. 22, the rink has attracted approximately 8,500 people, raising nearly $70,000 from skate rentals and concessions alone, all of which goes directly into the Crown Point Parks and Special Events Department’s fund.
While the early turnout was “a huge success” for the city, Uran said the crowds did cause long lines.
“We didn’t know what would happen until we opened the doors,” he said. “There isn’t another one of these built to this size outdoors in Northwest Indiana.”
To help manage equipment and the large crowds, the Crown Point Board of Public Works and Safety approved a contract agreement with EZFacility, a business management software company, at Wednesday’s board meeting. The month-to-month contract includes a one-time $300 setup fee and $150 monthly charge.
The new software system, which will be used throughout all of Bulldog Park, will “make it easier and more efficient to work with customers,” said Crown Point Parks Director Jennie Burgess. It will not only help staff manage inventory, but provide tourism information, tracking the number of local and visiting customers.
Under this new system, each ice rink customer will be able to create an account and be given a membership card to use and swipe with each visit, rather than having to give up a driver’s licenses or ID to rent skates, which is the current practice.
Because the contract agreement was recently approved, Burgess said there is not a set date for when the software will be active.
“All of it has been a learning curve,” Burgess said. “Our goal is to give residents somewhere to go and something to do. We are working on getting better every day.”
The ice rink has been closed over the last few days for maintenance updates, which includes the installation of hockey nets. The rink reopened from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday for open skate. “Rat” hockey, which requires a minimum of 15 players, starts Sunday.
Learn-to-skate programs will also start Monday at the Bulldog Park ice rink. These four-week programs are open to all ages. Those interested in participating can sign up by calling the Parks Department at 219-661-2271.
“There are a lot of kids who want to come out on the ice but are not confident on skates. We have hired coaches to help with that,” Burgess said.
Bulldog Park ice rink operating hours, which can be found at crownpoint.in.gov, may change through the season to keep up with construction, Burgess said.
The ice rink is just one small part of the $10 million recreational facility, which was financed through a donation from the Dean and Barbara White Foundation and property taxes drawn from commercial real estate. The two-acre event center will also include splash pads for the summer months, an amphitheater and band shell that can accommodate 1,500 people.
Uran said the goal is to have construction complete on the remainder of the plaza by early May so the city can host events, including various festivals and Saturday farmers market, starting in June.
“The facility really speaks for itself. It’s incredible looking and very family friendly. It really has the ability to continue to bring people together in a positive manner,” Uran said. “It’s really for everyone.”