GLADSTONE - The Gladstone Sports Park opens today for the first time this season and promises to offer residents a new and improved winter sport experience.
"We're going to open up the ski hill and the ice rink," said Gladstone Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Sanderson.
Both the ice rink and the ski hill will open at noon today and remain open until 6 p.m. Weekend hours will continue to be noon to 6 p.m. and typical weekday hours will run from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
"There'll be holiday extended hours while the kids are on vacation," said Sanderson, adding the Sports Park will be open on New Years Day and Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve the park will remain open from noon to 4 p.m. The park will remain closed for Christmas with regular weekday hours resuming on Dec. 26. New Years Eve the park will remain open during regular hours and visitors can return to the park between noon and 4 p.m. on New Years Day.
While the hours the park is open are dependent on the weather, fewer closures can be expected this season thanks to a new reservoir and snow gun system.
The new system allows the park can continually make snow as long as temperatures are below 25 degrees.
"We probably have a nine inch base (on the ski hill) and more in other places," said Sanderson, adding tubers can expect about 10 inches of groomed snow base when the park opens.
Skiers and snowboarders can also enjoy an expanded terrain park with equipment created by Gladstone High School student Hans Ahola and Trent Bellingar, welding instructor for the Delta Schoolcraft Career and Technical Center. Snow is still being created for the park's table tops, but skiers and snowboarders will soon have 11 stations to use when showing off their best tricks.
"These stations are for the more experienced skier or snow boarder. They're designed to challenge skiers, but we still have our bunny hill for beginners and center court for intermediate skiers," said Sanderson.
Traditionally the park has attracted younger visitors - frequently high school students - but the addition of the terrain park has sparked new interest with older skiers and snowboarders.
"A lot of 19 to 24 year olds are coming up because of the terrain park," said Sanderson.
For younger skiers and snowboarders the sports park will begin hosting its annual after school program on Jan. 13. Students from Holy Name Catholic School, Rapid River, and Gladstone Schools will be bused to the park where they will be provided with a snack, homework assistance, and access to the ski hill.
"Of course we have the family-friendly tubing as well," said Sanderson, stressing the park can be a fun place for parents and children to spend time together.
For more information about the Gladstone Sports Park visit the city's website at www.gladstonemi.org/SkiPark or call 428-9130. A live view of the conditions on the ski hill is also available online at www.gladstonemi.org/webcam.