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Technical difficulties delay opening of downtown Gainesville ice skating rink

Alachua County residents will have to wait a few more days before they lace up skates and take to the ice.

Technical difficulties in the construction of Gainesville's downtown ice skating rink will push back the grand opening to Monday, Dec. 3, at 4 p.m.

Midwest Display Inc., the company providing the rink, custom fitted the skating surface for Bo Diddley Plaza. Midwest Display President Mike Howard said his company is used to building rinks for much larger venues, and this installation has required some adjustment.

"We usually put these in amusement parks and places like that, so we've had to change the size of our equipment and the whole scope of how we do it," he said.

If the rink has a successful turnout, Howard said he will expand the skating surface to cover the entire plaza next winter.

Businesses surrounding the plaza believe the rink will bring more shoppers into their stores. Though the manager of Harry's Seafood, Bar & Grille in Gainesville was not available for an interview, Ocala manager Darin Hafer said a similar skating rink next to his store helps business and gives patrons something to do in the area.

"I don't see any reason why it wouldn't double the business," Hafer said. "There's something to do even if you're old or not physically able to ice skate, so at least you're able to come watch your grandkids or come look around and enjoy yourself."

To account for the delay, Midwest Display will offer free skating for the first three days the rink is open.

George Pappas edited this story online.

Talia is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org