Free ice skating in downtown Kent brings community to the city

The sign for the Kent Skates and all the partnerships involved. The rink is located on East Erie Street in downtown Kent, which is between St. Rt. 59 and South Depeyster Street. 

The sign for the Kent Skates and all the partnerships involved. The rink is located on East Erie Street in downtown Kent, which is between St. Rt. 59 and South Depeyster Street. 

Lucy Connolly Reporter

Kent Skates opened Nov. 20 with free rentals and fun for the public to enjoy. The rink is located by the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center. It will offer a snack and drink stand as well as many downtown restaurants attendees can support.

Tom Wilke, the Economic Development Director for the city of Kent, said Kent Skates is a great partnership with Kent State and other organizations, which had two primary goals with the ice rink. 

“On behalf of Kent State University to provide their resident students something to do in the winter months that we don’t currently have,” Wilke said. “And then secondly, from the city’s perspective, it draws people into our downtown in what are traditionally the slowest months of the year for our downtown businesses.”

Wilke discussed how great this would be for not only Kent residents but neighboring towns and said this idea has been in the works for a long time. He said since taking on his role in 2015 they have discussed a free rink, but it wasn’t until 2019 when it was supposed to go into effect. Unfortunately, the pandemic changed those plans, but the city is excited to see it finally happen this year. 

“This is the first year, so it couldn’t have come at a better time given everything that’s happened with the pandemic,” Wilke said. “And it’s an outdoor thing that people will feel safer doing rather than indoors, and we hope it generates a lot of traffic.”

With Kent State having a big part in the funding, students are a big part of the traffic coming to Kent Skates. Student Sydney Smith, a junior engineering major, said she is excited about having something for her and her friends to do during the winter.

“It is very convenient, right outside of campus,” Smith said, “and it’s just something me and my friends can go to and have some fun.”

Smith said this would be a nice addition to college students who maybe can’t afford to go out and would like to enjoy a traditional holiday activity. 

As for Wilke, he said the rink is different from just a one day event where the community comes together and expects long term results to bring the community together safely.

The ice skating rink will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Feb. 28. The Kent Chamber of Commerce said there will be a grand opening celebration of the rink on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. to officially bring the community together with this special rink.

Lucy Connolly is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]