Ice skating to return to Howard Park in 2019

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Ice skating will return to South Bend’s Howard Park in the fall of 2019.

The city is now ready to move forward with some $18 million worth of planned improvements there.

In order to make way for a new ice skating facility, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Howard Park had to be moved. Moved both over — and up.

“Folks will note that it's significantly higher than the park elevation is today. It almost looks like it's on a hill or a pedestal. That's indicative of where the new grades will be for the new Howard Park,” said Aaron Perri, director of South Bend Venues, Parks and Arts.

Perri said it was prudent that Howard Park should be raised in light of flood data and the fact that Howard Park used to be a dump.

Thursday, the South Bend Redevelopment Commission didn’t bat an eye when asked to more than double the amount it earlier agreed to pay for a new ice skating facility at Howard Park.

The commission set aside $1.5 million for the project back in 2015, and approved an additional $1.9 million request Thursday.

“This is a quality of place and really will make the Howard Park a gem and jewel of our city, for all the residents to enjoy,” Director of the Community Investment Department James Mueller said.

The ice rink feature at Howard Park is expected to cost around $3 million.

“That’s, of course, not just the rink, it's the ice pond, it's the ice trail, and it’s all of the support facilities that goes with it. Where you change your skates, it’s where you rent your skates. The benches, the fireplace that you want to be around. The Zamboni machine. We’re going to have to, with this ice trail, it requires, it’s undulated, it requires a different Zamboni than we’ve had in the past,” Perri said.

A bid for the work is expected to be awarded by the end of September, with crews arriving on scene in October.

The entire job should take 56 weeks and some $18 million to complete.

“It’s the event lawn, it’s the community center, it’s the water feature, it’s the interactive fountain, it’s the ice skating, it’s the playground, the whole kit and caboodle,” Perri said.

Perri said 25 percent of the cost would be covered by the park department, with another 25 percent covered with redevelopment dollars. Perri stressed that roughly 50 percent of the cost would be covered through private donations and grants.

“And we're very proud that we're able to implement this whole slate of projects my SB Parks and Trails, without raising any taxes, without implementing any new taxes. That's only possible because the community has participated in it,” Perri concluded.

The Howard Park improvement project is just one part of a grander plan to pour more than $50 million into the entire park system.

The city is also said to be close to awarding a half-million-dollar contract to renovate 22 different restrooms across the park system.