My Christmas gift to Hotel Hershey: ‘Sweet Skates’

A year-round plastic surface didn't work, but a seasonal ice rink could.
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The Christmas tree outside Harvest restaurant overlooks what used to be an all-season skating rink.

My family has spent multiple Christmas Days dining at the Hotel Hershey. This year we’ll be at the hotel’s stand-alone Harvest restaurant.

The hotel that Mr. Hershey built in the 1930s is an incredible treasure known for its Spanish- and Italian-influenced architecture. But in the spirit of the season, I offer an idea for making it better.

Of course, if you read this post or this one, then you know that my generosity knows no bounds when it comes to improving the place that I call home.

‘All-weather, all-season’

We’re blessed in Hershey to have two indoor ice rinks, the historic Hersheypark Arena (it turns 78 on Dec. 19) and Giant Center, plus the open-air ice rink at Milton S. Hershey School. There should be a fourth ice rink during the holidays at the hotel.

There was a rink in front of Harvest, built as part of the hotel’s $67 million “Grand Expansion” and opened Memorial Day weekend 2009. It was billed as an “all-weather, all-season” rink.

You can see how the rink fit into the plans, at the 1:05 mark of this video:

Here’s how it looked in practice, circa 2010:

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The surface wasn’t ice but rather plastic. People who tried it have said it was really hard to skate on, more stomping than gliding. Clearly it wasn’t a crowd favorite at the hotel as it since has been relocated to Hersheypark.

But the outline of the all-weather rink remains. As you can see from the photo at the top of this page, the space looks pretty bleak, lots of concrete next to the Christmas tree in front of Harvest.

‘Skating by the Sea’ near San Diego

I’m pretty sure the rink concept wasn’t the problem, just the surface. It needs to be an ice rink.

It would require a greater financial investment to build and maintain an ice rink, but the payoff in community buzz and participation would be fantastic.

I’ve been kicking around this idea since last Christmas, when my sister Julie told me about having taken her kids to “Skating by the Sea” at the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego. It was the largest resort hotel in the world when it opened in 1888, according to Wikipedia.

Now in its 10th year, Skating by the Sea features an outdoor ice rink on the hotel’s Windsor Lawn, with views of Coronado Beach and the Pacific Ocean. My sister’s family skated and had lunch there on Christmas Eve: it was 80 degrees outside.

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Skating by the Sea at dusk. (Photo: Hotel del Coronado)

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Christmas Eve at the Hotel del Coronado, my niece, Isabel, on the rink.

This year, Skating by the Sea opened on Thanksgiving Day and operates through Jan. 4. The rink draws more than 250,000 people each year; a portion of the skating proceeds benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego.

We’re pretty generous in central Pennsylvania, and we certainly have a more favorable climate for ice-making than balmy Southern California.

Hence, my idea for a version of Skating by the Sea at the Hotel Hershey. Let’s call it “Sweet Skates” to complement “Hershey Sweet Lights” and “Christmas Candylane.”

Imagine how pretty it would be to skate under the lights at the hotel, next to the outdoor Christmas tree, or just to watch the skaters with warm coffee or cocoa or ice-cold Hershey-brewed Troegs in hand? Maybe “Ice Skating at Night” by Hershey’s Ocean Blue is playing on the stereo speakers.

A hotel rink was the right idea. It just wasn’t the right execution.

As my sister said, “And, really, why on Earth would they have plastic ice in PA?”

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