Outdoor ice rink officially opens in downtown Kent, nearby businesses raise concerns


KENT, Ohio (WJW) – Kent’s newest seasonal outdoor attraction was officially opened on Thursday with a ceremony and a celebration, two years after it was first planned but delayed because of COVID-19.

The 81 foot by 41 foot outdoor ice rink provides a free activity for families. City Service Director Melanie Baker says it is intended to bring people out of their homes and visit downtown Kent.

“We just felt that this was something that would be able to provide an outdoor venue coming off of COVID, giving people an outside recreational activity to do that would be able to be fun for all ages, young to old. You know, get some business down here for our restaurants our businesses,” said Baker.

The rink is a project involving a number of partners and sponsors, including the City of Kent, Kent State University and the Kent Chamber of Commerce.

Adjacent to the university and just outside of its hotel and conference center on Erie Street, the rink closes down the street, consuming most all of the curbside parking there.

While the intention of the rink is to encourage skaters to visit downtown businesses, two businesses say it has done just the opposite.

The rink is just outside the windows of the Wave Salon where its owner says customers have cancelled appointments and, since construction began in October, have stayed away thinking their business is closed.

“Just in the past month, that all this is going on. We have seen like five to six cancellations per girl and that equals out to about 30 clients in a month which is ridiculous,” said Chelsea Szalay.

Szlay tells FOX 8, at $100 to $200 a ticket, they are losing thousands.

Although the rink has been in the planning for more than two years, Szlay says she was surprised when the road was closed and construction began because she was never made aware of it.

Diane Hanning, who has a spray tan business next door, echoes the concerns.

“It’s affected us deeply in the fact that our customers, especially with COVID, they think we are closed,” Hanning said.

The building which houses their two businesses is owned by the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority, which has a parking garage on the same property.

“This is meant to be a very positive thing. There is no ill will from anyone on this. We are trying to continue with open communication and make it the best we can,” said PARTA General Manager Claudia Amrhein.

Amrhein says she talked with the business owners on Tuesday and is trying to help find a resolution.

“We are working with the business owners to provide free parking for their employees. We are going to set up a voucher system for their clients. We started at a $50 level and we will assess that as we move along as to whether that’s adequate,” said Amrhein.

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, Kent State University offered a marketing plan to the businesses to also help.

The businesses there want people to know that they are open.

PARTA’s General Manager said she does sympathize with their concerns, and those involved in the planning of the rink notified the owners in a letter on Thursday of their intention to address their concerns and continue a dialogue with them.

“Of course, everyone likes to know what’s going on outside of their front door and there was some miscommunication I believe that we are trying to address right now in the best way we can,” said Amrhein

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