Virgin Islands Search and Rescue Executive Creative Director Julie Schneider prepares for a press conference introducing the “glice” rink for this year’s Winter Wonderland celebration at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park. (Photo: PROVIDED)

On Nov. 28, residents will be able to enjoy an early Christmas treat at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park: an artificial ice-skating rink.

In a VI first, the rink will be open to the public from Nov. 28 to Jan. 6, 2021. It will be a part of Virgin Islands Search and Rescue’s Winter Wonderland fundraiser and will open in conjunction with a tree-lighting ceremony.

“We still need to make $100,000 for our boat. We’re still working out of our contingency funds. We have no revenue coming in, so this fundraiser will be very important for the future,” said Julie Schneider, VISAR’s executive creative director. “But for this year, as long as the rink is up and the community is enjoying it, that is our goal.”

The fundraiser has been in the works for the past 16 to 18 months, but Covid-19 delayed plans, Ms. Schneider said.

With the help of Roger Harris and other sponsors, VISAR purchased the rink from a Swiss-based company called Glice, which specialises in synthetic skating rinks. The rink doesn’t require any electricity.

“It functions like ice and is used by the National Hockey League,” Ms. Schneider said. “Actually, players use this in the off-season to keep their skills sharp.”

The iceless rink is also made of blocks that slide to fit together, Ms. Schneider explained. Because of this, VISAR can expand the rink if needed.

Donations needed

VISAR is a non-profit, volunteer-run search and rescue service that operates 24 hours a day throughout the year. Since its formation in 1988, it has carried out more than 1,600 search and rescue missions, according to its website.

Since the organisation’s operational costs rely on donations, especially from tourists, it has taken an economic hit this year, said Phil Aspinall, VISAR’s operations manager.

Ms. Schneider said she hopes this fundraiser will put VISAR back in good financial standing while providing a fun activity, even if not many tourists are around to enjoy it this year.

“This way, we can work out any kinks and give back to the community,” she said. “This is very community-minded.”

The rink will be open from 2-7 p.m. on weekdays and from 2-10 p.m. on weekends. There will be nightly “snowfall” as well. If needed, the hours can be extended to meet demands, Ms. Schneider said.