Wendy Thomas

Guest column: A history of ‘ice’ skating in Snoqualmie

By Wendy Thomas

The recent article in the Snoqualmie Star about “Winter Magic,” Snoqualmie’s synthetic skating rink event, raised a number of concerns that seemed intended to encourage public comment and evaluation.

However, in order to more fully examine the event as it now exists, additional details should be introduced.

Warning, this is a bit lengthy. Here goes my best: In 2014 Nate Perea had two roles, as the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce director, and fulfilling a contract for economic development services with the city of Snoqualmie. Perea was young, enthusiastic, energetic, charming, and creative. In his short stint as the director (April 2013 to September 2014), he brought fresh perspective and new ideas, one of which was to try to locate an ice rink in Snoqualmie.

The way it was explained to me was that there was a shortage of ice time in the greater Puget Sound area. There were only a few ice rinks operating, and so much demand that hockey leagues were booking their time slots into the wee hours of the night and early morning.

Perea was of the opinion that an ice rink might benefit Snoqualmie in a number of ways: There are a lot of families with kids that might take up skating or hockey; other skaters, hockey players and their entourages would come here to utilize the ice time; and perhaps larger events could take place here, bringing more ice sports participants and accompanying enthusiastic entourages. This was a very ambitious, and maybe not so addled idea.

Perea talked to people and they got kind of excited. Apparently there were a lot of people who have fond memories of skating as a youngster. Then there are the many young people who, after watching the Olympics, dream of being a figure-skating or hockey star.

A temporary ice rink on the vacant King Street lot for the winter season was proposed. I cannot give you all the details, but it seemed that the city was a bit beyond interested. Things looked like they were progressing well, but then suddenly it was discovered that in order to have an actual “genuine” ice rink, there were major power requirements that were not available. Apparently three-phase power was the demise of the real-deal ice rink.

By this time, there was quite a buzz about the prospect of an ice rink in Snoqualmie. You know how news does travel. Not long after, Perea left the chamber and Lizzy Billington became director.

If memory serves, she was responsible for suggesting the synthetic rink as an alternative. Given the many people who were anticipating skating in Snoqualmie, the synthetic option might have had more sway than it would have had if it been suggested at the outset. Perhaps in a desire to keep from disappointing folks, the synthetic option was approved and budgeted by the Snoqualmie City Council.

Kaylee Hardman (now Harris) and Billington spent considerable time and effort in December 2014, staffing the rink, outdoors in our nasty winter weather. The same is true of city staff, many of them parks department folks who assembled and disassembled the rink two times — the rink spends time in both Historic Downtown and on the Ridge). There may have even been elected officials involved in the setup, too.

Concerted efforts to promote the rink included a King 5 “Evening Magazine” segment in historic downtown, with the Railroad Museum strategically placing trains to hide major construction.

But the rink doesn’t enjoy a lot of traffic.

It can take time for activities, events, and festivals to come to fruition, but the questions raised about the rink’s existence are timely and pertinent.

The holiday tree lighting and downtown open house are well attended — they existed before “Winter Magic” as “Merry and Bright.” Putting up all those lights is a huge undertaking; maybe there should be two weekends of lightings. Perhaps there are other activities that could offer an alternative to the rink, hopefully something less expensive with more opportunities for groups to take on portions, similar to the Railroad Days event model, which is really coming along.

Things aren’t always as straightforward or as simple as one might think. Not everything will turn out well, despite the best of intentions, and generally good intentions are involved. Benefits or detriments cannot always be anticipated or quantified, but it is important to try.

The bigger the risk and budget, the greater the exposure to ire if things don’t go well. Evaluative thinking is sometimes in short supply, and not always fully appreciated, especially in conjunction with community events and other discretionary expenditures. Everyone wants to go to the success party, setbacks and dustups not so much. Someone will always be disgruntled.

Sometimes you have to let things go. It is important to keep trying to be informed, engaged, and contribute!

Wendy Thomas is the co-owner of Carmichael’s True Value in downtown Snoqualmie.