By Phil Davis, South Jersey Times
The downtown area of Glassboro continues to expand in scope as the borough celebrated the grand opening of the Winterland Ice Skating Rink on Wednesday.
Glassboro residents and Rowan University officials were out in snow caps and mittens as owner Al Bartolomeo led the proceedings with the first few skaters setting foot onto the ice on Rowan Boulevard that afternoon.
According to Bartolomeo, who also owns Bogey’s Club and Cafe in Pitman, the rink is 60-foot by 100-foot, or about half the size of a regulation NHL ice hockey rink.
He said when he first began talking to borough officials and council members about building the rink, he wasn’t sure if anyone thought it would actually come to fruition in such a short period of time.
“I think they knew I was serious, but I don’t know if they knew how serious I was,” said Bartolomeo.
Back in June, the borough announced they were taking bids for a winter park to be set on the strip of Rowan Boulevard.
After Bartolomeo won the bid in July, he said he immediately started creating the plans and artist renderings for the ice rink and winter park. He said he was able to stay true to his original vision of the park.
Now, just a few months after Bartolomeo was awarded the bid, a 18,000-pound ice chiller is sitting on a plot of land cooling a 6000-square-foot sheet of ice.
Outside and around the outdoor rink are plenty of novelty shops, made to keep with the seasonal festivities with complete wood finishes.
The park also includes a fire pit that can seat up to 25 people, according to Bartolomeo, along with a 30-foot Christmas tree donated by the Glassboro Fire Department.
For Bartolomeo, whose wife Kim owns the Let’s Dance Studio on High Street, he said he was committed to seeing the town grow. He envisions a busy downtown section with stores thriving and plenty of activities for residents and visitors.
“We are here solely because we are vested in this community,” said Bartolomeo. “We weren’t selling something we didn’t believe in.”
Bartolomeo credited much of the legwork to the park’s co-owner, Bob Bailey, the owner of My Lawn Care and Landscaping Company Inc. based out of Williamstown.
Both he and Bartolomeo said the park took 19 days to complete once construction began and that it cost “better than $250,000 to build.”
“I just kept throwing stuff at this guy, and he just kept building,” said Bartolomeo of Bailey. “There were a lot of long days. But now that it’s done, it’s all worth it.”
The rink is scheduled to eventually move to the intersection of High Street, Poplar Street and Rowan Boulevard as work on the town square begins to wrap up next year.
The outdoor ice rink marks yet another project that has been completed this year as a part of the Rowan Boulevard redevelopment, based off of High and Main Streets in the borough.
In August, construction wrapped up on three building projects including a hotel, a parking garage, and a mixed-use building that offers both academic and retail space.
Rowan University also recently announced the university bought an unfinished townhouse project on High Street for $440,000 with plans to repurpose the site as an art gallery and work studio.