COURTHOUSE – The Virginia Beach Farmers Market could be the site of an ice skating rink this winter, creating a family-friendly attraction near the intersection of Princess Anne and Dam Neck roads and boosting traffic for year-round businesses that are tenants at the city-run market.
First the City Council needs to approve funding for electrical improvements at the market that would allow a portable ice rink to operate and provide power for existing events on the market’s “front lawn.” The City Council is scheduled to consider providing the funding today.
The city staff proposed using $167,000 left over from the new Housing Resource Center project to pay for the electrical upgrades. The City Council deferred making a decision in August after City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District, sought time to engage the public about the expenditure.
“The farmers market is supposed to benefit Virginia Beach agriculture,” said Henley, who is a farmer, “and I just want to make sure what is being done is going to benefit Virginia Beach farmers.”
In an interview, City Agriculture Director David Trimmer said the electrical upgrade is an opportunity to benefit the market.
“We can have events on the front lawn, which is a visual attraction,” Trimmer said, speaking of an area that can be seen from the road and where carnivals are held. “It will bring people to the market, and it may be their first time.”
Those people might come back to the market, he noted. The rink, a portable model, might be in place after Thanksgiving through February, when business is slower than in summer months.
“It would be a nice draw to the market on the shoulder season,” Trimmer said. It would be a “domino effect to create business” and increase the overall value of the market, a home to a number of agriculture-related events and educational opportunities related to farming and gardening.
Though a vote on the proposal was delayed, the plan had support in August during a City Council work session. During the meeting, Trimmer said the idea for a rink has been in the works for perhaps a year. Electrical upgrades would also help the carnival attraction in summer and fall avoid using gas generators.
The rink could be operated through the same local operators of Boardwalk Attractions, which does the carnival. Winter activities would have a holiday theme, include rides and incorporate Christmas tree vendors at the market alongside the rink.
“The farmer’s market is a real, true amenity and destination for a lot of people from the city and also from all of Hampton Roads,” said City Councilmember Bobby Dyer, who represents the Centerville District. “The idea of having a skating rink, a new entity to bring people there during the winter – you know, you’ve got some tremendous events there now. This would just add to it.”
“I would really like to hear more feedback from the community,” Henley said.
City Councilmember Shannon Kane, who represents the Rose Hall District, said she agreed the city should ask citizens what they think of the idea, and she added that the market provides family events
“There’s just always something going on, and it adds such a quality of life to that area,” Kane said. “It’s something a little different and welcome, and I support you.”
Jody Cadwell, co-owner of Boardwalk Attractions, said the plan to operate a rink is ready to put into place if there is approval for the upgrades. He’s also owner of National Event Management Corp., which for years has booked and produced larger carnivals, such as those at Mount Trashmore and during the Pungo Strawberry Festival.
“It’s a portable rink,” Cadwell said during an interview. “It’s real ice.”
He said the market is a promising location for a rink and winter amusements, given the market itself and the busy intersection nearby.
“We’re just trying to give families a great place to go to during the holidays to experience the ice, the rides,” he said.
“I think the ice skating rink would become a destination for the holidays,” he added.
A rink would come through a company that places them around the U.S., including Stony Point Fashion Park in Richmond and MacArthur Center in Norfolk.
Some businesspeople at the market said a winter attraction could help.
“I don’t see how it’s going to hurt if it brings more people into the complex,” said Kevin Tunney, owner of Gilly’s Creamery. “Wintertime might be a little tougher on ice cream, but people enjoy ice cream all the time.”
“I just like it because they’re trying to increase traffic on the off-season – putting money back into the market,” said Val Goulart, owner of Flutterby Soap Company.
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