Westport’s outdoor ice rink returns for 25th year

Photo of Serenity Bishop

WESTPORT — What started as a small rink in the Longshore Inn’s parking lot has since become a cherished winter staple residents look forward to skating, slipping and falling across each year.

This year, as some residents show off their skills and others finally learn how to stand up on their blades, they will also join the Westport Police Athletic League is celebrating its 25th anniversary of operating at the PAL Rink at Longshore Park.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas said that he could not be happier with the success of the outdoor ice rink.

“First and foremost, I want to thank the ice rink’s staff as well as the PAL volunteers,” Koskinas said. “Their hard work and dedication are the reasons the rink had been able to operate seamlessly for so many years.”

While Westport’s ice skating rink has been open each year, it has faced several challenges over the years, most recently with COVID-19 and the overall warmer winter weather.

Lt. David Wolf said the rink faced some “unique” challenges from COVID-19 due to the all of the different state mandates last year. He anticipates the rink will have a better season this year despite, the shadow of the pandemic still looming over society.

Westport was recently moved back into the “red” zone by the state Department of Public Health, but despite the increasing numbers, town officials said they currently have no plans to reinstate any restrictions.

The warmer weather has presented an entirely different issue, which could impact the length of the skating season.

“The warmer weather certainly presents some challenges as it often delays the opening of the rink which of course shortens the skating season.,” Wolf said. “Generally, though, as long as temperature stays 50 and below the rink can operate.”

The Westport PAL, which was established in 1948, created the ice rink in 1997. The goal was to create a place where families and friends could enjoy outdoor winter activities. The rink quickly grew in both size and popularity.

A larger rink was purchased in its fifth year of operation, expanding to 75 feet by 144 feet, thanks to the success of the rink and the financial contributions from “generous” donors the police department said.

Wolf said operating the popular winter activity is just like running any other small business, it’s about the people. He said the most important thing is to have the right staff in place who have the knowledge and expertise in managing an ice rink.

First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker said that it’s a great activity for Westport residents.

“It is wonderful to see friends and families skating at the rink and there is little doubt that it will continue to be a popular winter destination for the next 25 years,” she said.

Visit https://www.wpalrink.com for information on hours and pricing.