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Downtown pocket park features ice rink

Jill Schramm/MDN Erika Craven enjoys figure skating on the ice at the new Citizens Alley rink Monday.

A new outdoor ice skating rink is set to open in downtown Minot next Tuesday, but young skaters had a chance to take an inaugural whirl on the ice Monday afternoon.

Citizens Alley is a small, pocket park located adjacent to the FreightHouse at 110 East Central Ave, behind Prairie Sky Breads and Guilty Sweets.

Jessica Ackerman with Aksal Group, which owns the property, said the project has been in the works since last summer. Last winter, the site hosted a crokicurl rink.

“That was a great way to just prove that people wanted winter recreation in downtown, but it was just different enough that it didn’t quite catch on,” she said. “We knew that something related to skating — ice skating, public skating, hockey — would probably be a better fit for people here.”

The project received a $20,000 Main Street Tourism Outdoor Recreation Grant. Ackerman said the grant allowed for the addition of pieces such as hockey nets, bumpers, benches and mats.

“I think it will help just to make it a more comfortable place for people to come,” she said.

The length of the rink will fit two nearly regulation-sized curling ice sheets, Ackerman said. It can provide two mini-hockey rinks for young skaters to practice or play.

“It’s really geared toward younger children and smaller kids,” Ackerman said.

At this time, skaters should bring their own equipment, but a skate rental program is in development.

“We’re sensing a bit of interest in it this first year, so we really want to make it as accessible as possible for people and don’t want gear to be the thing that holds them back from trying it,” Ackerman said.

The rink is free to use anytime as long as an event isn’t scheduled. In the evenings, twinkling overhead lights will add to the atmosphere.

Ackerman said Aksal Group will be maintaining the ice as much as possible. At the end of the season, the rink will be removed until next fall.

“This would be an annual winter recreation piece,” she said. “The idea is that we can develop this Citizens Alley to be a four-season place for people to come and spend a little bit more time in the downtown. So, we’re working on additional plans for the other seasons.”

Communications manager Kim Schmidt and social media strategist Alicia Jolliffe with North Dakota Tourism were in Minot Monday to check out the ice rink, the downtown restaurant Whiskey Nine, the Magic City Discovery Center coming together on North Hill, the Dakota Square pop-up bar Miracle on 10th and Scandinavian Heritage Park.

Schmidt said North Dakota is seeing the emergence of pocket parks like Citizens Alley in the state’s larger cities.

“We’re starting to see a lot more of this kind of synergy that communities are embracing, and it just helps provide another traveler experience,” she said. “They are looking for these experiences.”

Jolliffe added that having more to see and do in a short walking distance encourages people to stop and spend time.

“When people think of North Dakota, they think the travel season ends on Labor Day weekend, when in essence our busiest time is third quarter,” Schmidt added. “It’s about extending into the winter season. We have lots of offerings, lots of opportunities — skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing — a plethora of opportunities around the state to get out and have some outdoor experiences.”

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