City ice skating rink finds new home


Perky the Penguin has found a new home just across the harbor.

A public ice skating rink will open next month at Harbor Point in Fells Point, city officials said yesterday, saving a skating season that a few weeks ago appeared to be in jeopardy.

The Baltimore Ice Rink at Harbor Point will open Dec. 12 and continue through Feb. 29, marking the 11th consecutive year for public skating. All of the rink's annual activities -- and its mascot, Perky the Penguin -- will return.

In October, the city said the rink's former location at Rash Field in Federal Hill would not open for the skating season because outdated equipment often failed to make ice suitable for skating.

At the time, it was expected that public skating would be on a one-year hiatus until a new site was selected, but the city and Harbor Point developers Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse and H&S; Properties rushed to put together a new deal.

Harbor Point is the 27-acre peninsula that juts into the harbor in Fells Point. It was once the location of a chemical plant that was a major toxic polluter.

"We met with the folks at Struever about 2 1/2 months ago," said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts. "We spoke conceptually about forming a partnership, although we didn't think we had enough time to do it this year."

Gilmore said the developer insisted on starting the project this year against a tight deadline for completing the 80-foot-by-150-foot rink.

"Not to use a cliche, but it really is a classic public-private partnership," Gilmore said of the $200,000 project. "Struever provides the start-up money and property, and the city is responsible for everything after that, the management, the promotion and marketing."

Gilmore said the city will reimburse Struever for the cost of the new rink equipment, specifically the refrigeration system that makes ice, over a number of years. Also, the two sides will share in the proceeds from the rink, with most of that money going to pay for upgrades at Harbor Point, such as permanent restrooms and other amenities.

The rink will operate seven days a week. Skate rentals will be available, and there will be a parking fee.

The rink again will feature Tykes on Ice, a Saturday morning children's series, and New Year's Eve on Ice.

Making Harbor Point the site of a family-oriented facility represents a continuing turnaround for the location.

For more than a century, the site was home to a chrome plant that was a major polluter of the Chesapeake Bay. In 1985, an environmental group filed notice of intent to sue the owner, AlliedSignal of New Jersey -- now owned by Honeywell -- and the company entered into a court-ordered agreement with the federal government to halt runoff.

The parcel was covered with a waterproof cap this year after the developers signed an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency that protects them from federal lawsuits .

Honeywell, the property owner, is responsible and can be sued, according to EPA officials.

"It's just a good way to start using the site and show people that it is safe," said Stacy Chanski, a spokeswoman for the development company. "It's just really a perfect location for great views of the harbor."

Harbor Point

Dates: Dec. 12 to Feb. 29

Hours: 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday.

Cost: Monday through Thursday, $4; Friday through Sunday, $5. Skate rental, $3. Parking fee.

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