SUMMERVILLE — Despite a two-day delay to its opening due to equipment issues, Flowertown's first outdoor skating rink is off to a promising start a little over two weeks in.
Over 2,000 skaters have taken to the ice, with the highest single-day total at around 350 skaters, Summerville DREAM Director Steven Doniger reported this week to members of the town Parks and Recreation Committee.
DREAM is an organization tasked with promoting downtown revitalization.
"It's been fantastic," Doniger told The Post and Courier after Monday's meeting. "Our return value so far has been really good. People are coming back, and the goodwill has really been positive."
Doniger said that save for a day where there was water on the ice — which he said happens with all outdoor rinks — and a day of inclement weather, the rink's launch couldn't have gone much smoother.
The gross income the rink has made to this point, Doniger said, is around $34,500.
At an October meeting, Doniger said 90 percent of the net revenue from the rink will be given back to the town to offset the costs. The other 10 percent will cover DREAM’s operating expenses.
In October, Summerville Town Council authorized $130,000 to be allocated from the town's Hospitality and Accommodations Tax fund so DREAM could fund the rink's construction. HAT money is generated by taxes paid to the town by tourist-related activities. A committee meets once a year to distribute some of the funds back to businesses and groups who apply and meet a set of qualifications.
Doniger said in October that DREAM hopes to return $90,000 of the $130,000 to the town.
Since the organization received the funding, Doniger said he's taken it upon himself to live up to the responsibility.
"This is serious with me, that all funding is a sacred trust," he said.
On Summerville-related social media groups, some residents have said they're against the rink because it's "taxpayer funded" or "a waste of money."
Shortly after the rink opened, posts circulated in some local Facebook groups criticizing the "$130,000 puddle you're paying for," referencing the day where water was visible on the ice.
Others criticized the feasibility of opening an outdoor rink in a Southern state.
The rink has been forced to close due to weather one time, and the ice is sustainable as long as the temperatures don't go above 75 degrees.
Doniger addressed those concerns at Monday's meeting.
"The ice is around 3 inches thick at all times, and we have procedures in place to keep skaters safe," he said during the meeting.
In an open letter posted in the Positively Summerville Facebook group, Hunter Jackson said that as a newer resident to the town, he appreciated the impact that DREAM has, even beyond the ice skating rink.
Jackson has two children with autism, Noah and Riley, who struggled to adjust to places they've lived before, he wrote.
"Noah would rarely leave our house without a meltdown when we lived in Lexington," Jackson wrote. "He has been ice skating 3 times. Scared to death at first, he pushed through it and grew as a person.
"He is non-verbal and cannot express himself verbally, however I know his face, his determination," the letter continues. "This community has made him grow."
Councilman Bob Jackson said at the conclusion of the committee meeting that all of the feedback he'd received about the rink had been positive, and commended Doniger on the work DREAM had done to get the rink ready in short order.
"It seems a little more like Christmas," Jackson said.
The rink is scheduled to remain open until Jan. 11.