Ice rink at Franciscan Square provides winter fun to students, locals

Photo by Elizabeth Wagner

Tabitha Silva

Staff Writer

As students came back to campus this spring, there was a surprise waiting for them. Along with their afternoon coffee and bagel from Brooklyn Bagel, students now have access to the only local ice skating rink in Steubenville.

Within walking distance of campus and surrounded by restaurants, the rink is a resourceful, recreational activity for those at Franciscan University.

In an interview, Richard Rollino, Vice President of Finances, said the rink originated as a way to bring a recreational activity to students during the pandemic. When it was discovered that there was not room on campus to hold the ice rink and that it cost more than the school could allocate, the school expanded the idea. The ice rink would serve students as well as the community, Rollino said.

Since the green area within Franciscan Square is a community area, it was a perfect spot. The businesses around the rink would prosper as well from the incoming activity.

“All of these together in a single event was a great opportunity,” said Rollino.

The idea came about in October 2020, right before the end of the previous semester. The goal was to have it available to students before they left for Thanksgiving break.

With COVID-19 cases rising as the winter began to settle in, classes ended suddenly. The school hustled to get space and funding and the ice rink opened on Nov. 25, Rollino said. Although it appeared too late for student enjoyment, the ice rink brought in a holiday spirit just right for the advent season.

The ice rink would have cost the university approximately $100,000, said Rollino. Since this was more than what was available, Franciscan reached out to the Trinity Health System and others for sponsorships. $60,000 of the finances came from 30-plus sponsors, the largest being Trinity Health System. The remaining amount was collected from admissions.

The success of this season to bring together the students, the Steubenville community and the local businesses has promoted the desire to make the ice rink an annual event, said Rollino. With this in mind, the school has even bigger hopes for the ice rink next year.

The school hopes to work with the same vendor and provide a larger ice rink. Along with the ice rink, the school will put murals inside of the walls and provide games to add to the entertainment. Rollino said that this would be possible “as long as there is public interest.”

Rollino also said that the school is always looking for ways to improve the students’ experiences.

“The problem this year was that it was opened on Thanksgiving but that’s when (most) students left. It started out slower with students because of their schedules. We started later than expected,” Rollino said.

If you have not been able to make it out to the ice rink yet, there is still time. The ice rink’s last scheduled day is Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. Students receive free skate rentals when they present their student IDs and pay the $6 admission fee.