A temporary ice skating rink at The Mall in Columbia has opened after more than eight weeks of construction delays, but it now is a financial burden, the owners claim.
Mall management had hoped the facility would attract families and help sluggish sales at the mall's new entertainment plaza.
Rink owners say they hope to draw customers as the year's busiest shopping season grinds to a halt, and they would like to stay longer, if mall management allows.
Lance Curran, a partner in Tri-State Ice Management, said the company has proposed building a permanent facility at the mall that could be used for other activities during warm months.
The rink could be similar to one Tri-State has built at Reston Town Center in Virginia that serves as a platform for bands and car shows during the summer.
"We think Columbia is a fantastic community, and we look forward to having a long-term relationship with the neighborhood," Curran said.
That relationship has had a rocky start.
The rink opened Friday after soggy soil and slow approvals from the county extended delays to the construction and permit process. The rink -- 60 feet by 120 feet -- was built next to the L.L. Bean store at the rear of the mall.
The company has temporary rinks at three other locations in the Baltimore-Washington area -- all of them built on concrete -- and those opened in late October.
Curran said the company has never opened a rink a few days before Christmas because the months leading to the holiday are essential to total revenue.
"The earlier we get open, the more people know about us," Curran said. "So if we get open [late], not very many people will have talked about it or put us in their list of activities.
"It's not just the revenues that are lost over those eight weeks, it also impacts the rest of the season."
Company partner Robert Hauck said in an interview before Thanksgiving that if the rink were not open by Christmas, the season would be futile.
Curran estimated the company has lost more than 50 percent of expected annual revenue for the rink because of the delays.
But it is still important to open, he said, because of the investment and the need to recoup as much of those costs as possible.
A temporary rink the size of the one at the mall can cost between $250,000 and $275,000 to operate, according to Thomas W. Hillgrove, president-owner of Rink Management Services Corp., a Richmond, Va., ice rink management and consulting firm.
Skate rentals, including double-bladed skates for children, are $5 for children and $6 for adults for a two-hour skating session.
The delays have harmed more than Tri-State. Without the rink, the mall's entertainment plaza has had little entertainment to offer besides eating, and the restaurateurs there say sales were slow even before the holiday season.
But mall manager Karen Geary said time remains for the rink to have impact on the plaza.
"We think of it as a great addition in terms of adding excitement and a bit of an exterior draw to the shopping experience and visiting experience," Geary said. "If nature agrees ... they'll be open well into next year."