Meet the Christmas City’s latest addition: the Ice Rink at SteelStacks.
Bethlehem, commonly referred to as the “Christmas City,” offers a plethora of holiday activities including tours, shopping and more. In preparation for this holiday season, local organizations planned new family-friendly events to be hosted in the heart of the city.
The new ice rink opened for the 2022 season this November. The Ice Rink at SteelStacks will accompany Chriskindlmarkt, an annual holiday market located in South Bethlehem on the ArtsQuest campus.
ArtsQuest, a nonprofit organization located in South Bethlehem, pitched the idea for an outdoor ice skating rink.
Ryan Hill, senior director of programming at ArtsQuest, said he worked with his team to brainstorm potential events for the upcoming holiday season.
“It really came from a discussion of trying to fully realize the campus’s potential during the Christmas season,” Hill said.
Although the idea for the ice rink was first conceptualized over five years ago, he said plans finally went into motion this holiday season.
“We just wanted to really take the holiday experience here at the ArtsQuest center to the next level, and we really feel the ice rink is going to do that,” Hill said.
ArtsQuest partnered with Rink Management Services, a company that oversees ice rink facilities, to bring the vision to life. The authentic outdoor ice rink is located right at the base of the blast furnaces on the SteelStacks campus.
Shannon Keith, director of communications for ArtsQuest, works to promote upcoming ArtsQuest events, including the ice rink’s grand opening.
“We were looking for ways to enhance Christmas in the Christmas City and to provide an opportunity for new memories to be made,” Keith said. “We’re always working to find ways to make sure that Bethlehem, the Christmas City, remains a major tourism destination.”
The rink will offer different themed skates, including 80s and 90s nights, a Y2K themed skate and musical artist theme, such as a Taylor Swift skate.
From Dec. 6 to Dec. 21 the ice rink will also offer sensory-friendly ice skating sessions every Tuesday and Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. During sensory-friendly skates, there is no music, nothing on the screen accompanying the rink and no flashing lights.
“We’ve tried to make it as hospitable as possible for anybody, whether young or old, who has sensory-related needs to be able to come out and to escape,” Hill said. “Here, we believe in increasing access wherever we can, and however we can.”
The Ice Rink at SteelStacks is presented by Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital, the region’s only children’s hospital, located in Allentown. The hospital is a Lehigh Valley Health Network hospital.
Richard Levy, vice president of marketing and public affairs at Lehigh Valley Health Network, said the hospital’s relationships with the South Bethlehem community are important.
“Bethlehem and the whole Northampton County is extremely important to us, and we’re extremely active in it,” Levy said.
Levy said the network has participated in 546 community engagements in the past 12 months alone.
The network showed immediate interest when ArtsQuest presented them with the prospect of an outdoor ice rink in an effort to increase precautions for COVID, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus.
Levy said the skating rink gives individuals the ability to exercise and get fresh air, which can contribute to both their physical and behavioral health.
Levy said that as a sponsor, the network hopes to raise awareness about the Bethlehem location.
“The number one thing that we want to do with our children’s hospitals is provide the absolute best quality health care, and number two is to make the access easy,” Levy said. “The ice rink is another mechanism to get that word out.”
The Lehigh Valley Health Network is also a presenting sponsor of the SteelStacks concert venue, Levitt Pavilion, and has had a longstanding relationship with organizations in South Bethlehem.
Levy said he is excited to see how the ice rink will impact the South Bethlehem community.
“The SouthSide is absolutely going through a renaissance,” Levy said. “I think that the ice rink is part of that.”
Hill said ArtsQuest is thrilled about the opening of the ice rink, and is hopeful it will create a positive impact on the South Bethlehem community.
“What I think it could be for the community is just another place to make amazing memories during this season where people get together with their families,” Hill said. “It’s another way to get together and celebrate the people that you love.”
The ice rink will be open daily including holidays from Nov. 22 through Jan. 1. Each skating session is 75-minutes long.
More information about times, ticket prices and themed skates can be found on the Christmas City website.