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Skate on State successful despite setbacks

Experienced and notice skaters alike step carefully onto the temporary skating rink at the corner of State and High St. The rink is part of Skate on State, an attraction organized by Capitol Crossroads as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize downtown. Executive director Cleve Ricksecker says to this point the event has been a success.

"W'eve had about 7,000 paid-admission skaters so far," Ricksecker said. "Our target was to have 17,000. We should reach that because the last two weeks here are the big period. It's when school has let out."

While the skating rink has attracted considerable attention, the ferris wheel has not seen as much action Ride operator Raymond Harding says inclimate weather has prevented them from operating most days

"When the weather's right, yeah, there have been quite a few people," Harding said. "(The weather's been right) maybe a good eight or nine days."

The wheel is decorated with 28-hundred white lights and looks like a giant snowflake. It's driven by traction and cannot run in high winds or rain. Ricksecker admits it's been somewhat of a letdown, but he's confident ridership will increase:

"The Ferris wheel has benn a bit of a dissappointment in terms of usage. It's not uncomfortable; we've had about 3,000 or 4,000 use that," Ricksecker said. "I think people are just having a hard time getting thier brains wrapped around the fact of riding a Ferris wheel in December."

Even with the unpredictable weather, the attractions still appear to be bringing people downtown. Several area businesses have adjusted their hours to accommodate Skate on State visitors, including the San Francisco Oven, a pizzeria on State St.

"We're open until 9 o'clock regularly on the weeknights anyway, so we've only had to stay open a little bit longer," restaurant manager Joey Jerome said. "We've seen a little increase in the evening business, but the most dramatic increase has been on the weekend."

Rickersecker says it's unclear whether the event has increased business at City Center Mall, which was a major factor in holding the event. But he says he's confident the skating rink will be back. Ricksecker says an outdoor artisan's market is a possibility for next year.