Just a couple of weeks ago, Riverside recreation Director Ron Malchiodi was on the verge of abandoning plans to set up the outdoor ice rink in Big Ball Park at Longcommon and Delaplaine road.

Through mid-January temperatures just hadn’t gotten cold enough to freeze the ground and maintain a hard sheet of ice.

Then he saw this week’s forecast – and its below-zero temperatures — and called members of the Big Chill Crew, the volunteers who help set up the liner, fill it with water and maintain the surface afterwards.

It’s a late start for the rink this year, but Malchiodi hopes residents will get a good month of use out of it.

“We are going to give it a whirl just based on the temperatures,” Malchiodi said. “We’re hoping for an extension of at least freezing temps through February to get the maximum use out of it. … It’s definitely something we want to offer the community, so we’re just hoping the weather will cooperate in the long term.”

Deputy Fire Chief William Sherman, who is a member of the Big Chill Crew, was on hand last Friday to supervise laying down the plastic liner for the 102-by-175-foot ice rink, and on Jan. 26 he oversaw filling up the liner by using a hose connected to a nearby fire hydrant.

“The Big Chill emails have been flying back and forth,” said Sherman of the efforts to mobilize a crew that included his kids and their friends as well as other longtime adult volunteers.

In addition to being Riverside’s deputy fire chief, the 65-year-old Sherman is also an avid hockey player, as are his now-adult children. 

“I’m always out there [on the rink at Big Ball Park] with my kids,” said Sherman. “I like to get it going.”

One of the reasons Malchiodi had contemplated calling off the ice rink this year is that the liner is pretty expensive. For several years the Riverside Junior Woman’s Charity donated the liner, which can cost as much as $2,500.

Malchiodi said for the past five years or so, the Department of Parks and Recreation has taken on the expense in order to allow the Juniors to concentrate donations on their core charities.

While a couple of days in a row in the mid-30s isn’t a terrible thing for the rink – that can serve as kind of a natural Zamboni and help resurface the ice – a streak of temperatures in the 40s can simply shut the rink down for good.

So, if the weather forecast is on the edge of freezing, setting up the rink can be dicey.

If the rink is only in use for a couple of weeks, “that’s a lose-lose for the department and the village,” said Malchiodi. “We want to provide this for the community, but we need to be fiscally responsible.”

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