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Skaters may glide into citys living room

Idea to install winter ice rink at Pioneer Square gains momentum, fans

A series of six massive upside-down umbrellas would provide cover for skaters at the proposed Pioneer Courthouse Square ice-skating rink.

The umbrella proposal won the approval of the square's Ice Rink Task Force committee, which continues to undertake a long series of feasibility studies gauging whether a downtown rink is viable.

At least one set of results are in: The committee unveiled a survey indicating that 63 percent of Portland residents 'have a positive reaction' to an ice-skating rink that would operate from November through March.

And 41 percent said they'd skate in the rink at least once a year.

Moore Information conducted the survey, polling 400 Portland-area residents.

Square leaders have kicked around the ice rink idea since last year. The idea is to add a retractable rink to attract visitors to the area, between Southwest Sixth Avenue and Broadway and Morrison and Yamhill streets, in the winter months.

Pending funding for the project and other approvals, the umbrellas would sit high atop six poles and fold upward when the weather allows. The water that collects in the umbrellas eventually would flow underground.

The umbrellas, which would be packed away for the summer along with the ice rink itself, would be made from a tungsten material.

The umbrella design comes from the award-winning Portland architecture firm of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, known for designing the Oregon Convention Center and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry on the Willamette River.

The umbrellas would cover the entire 60-by-120-foot rink as well as spectators' areas along the rink's edge. The rink would be the same size as that at Rockefeller Center in New York.

Karen Whitman, the square's executive director, said the Moore Information report indicates that area residents would not only support the rink, they'd support nearby businesses.

'That means that the rink would have a very positive effect on downtown,' she said. 'It would have huge direct and indirect benefits to the city.'

Specifically, 81 percent of those who would ice skate in the square said they also would eat in nearby restaurants. Another 74 percent said they'd shop at nearby stores.