Skaters at Salem On Ice pictured in December 2018. An organizer said the rink saw a 20 percent drop in skaters, prompting a cancellation of year three. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter files)
Salem on Ice is, well, on ice.
Organizers of the ice rink, which set up shop at Riverfront Park the last two years around the holiday season, told city leaders last month that despite being “thrilled to bring the ice skating experience to Salem,” they won’t be back for year three.
“It is with the utmost respect and deepest regret that the management team of Salem On Ice must inform you that we will not be returning to Riverfront Park for this upcoming ice skating season,” organizer Troy Acor wrote to Mayor Chuck Bennett on July 15.
Acor blamed a 20 percent drop in attendance, “with no clear indication that this trend will change in the coming season.” He said expenses, like a staff of 15 part-time workers, would rise.
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“From a personal perspective, Salem On Ice would prefer to continue serving our community as before; however, from our business perspective, that is no longer possible,” the letter said.
Salem On Ice debuted in 2017 to 35,000 people lacing-up skates that year. Last winter, there were 29,000, Acor said. He blamed the drop on unseasonable warmth, particularly around Thanksgiving break when the rink expected big crowds.
“It was sunny and weather was warm. We had a huge attendance reduction during that 10-day period. With seasonal ice rinks, the majority of revenue gets brought in… when kids are out of school and there’s a holiday season,” he said.
Acor said that made him uncertain about the future. In Modesto, Calif., where he previously ran ice rinks, consistent weather led to consistent crowds.
“Maybe I was being naïve,” he said. “It made me realize how much of an impact the weather can play in this. Of course in California we don’t have snow or ice storms, the weather is pretty moderate. It made me realize that if you bring in nice weather (and attendance drops), what could bad weather do?”
Acor, a sales engineer in the industrial refrigeration industry, said his management team left – including two business partners who helped finance Salem On Ice.
“There’s no way I can do this myself. That’s really what dropped the nail in the coffin,” he said.
In August 2017, Salem City Council approved Salem On Ice's contract, to be approved on annual basis, according to spokesperson Kathy Ursprung. She said the city was sad to see the rink go.
"It's been a really wonderful collaboration," she said. "They decided, from a business perspective, it wasn't going to work out for them to come back. It was a good relationship and we're sad to see them go. The community really loved it."
Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.