Group won't let ice rink idea sink at West Allis park

Feb. 11, 2013

West Allis - Little kids may once again wobble on their first ice skates while more sure-footed skaters breeze past them if a volunteer group is successful at bringing an ice rink back to LaFollette Park.

The Friends of LaFollette Park are sliding ahead with its plans, with help from Milwaukee County. The group already has already made one attempt at re-establishing the rink in the 18-acre park at 9418 W. Washington St.

Only last week, with a deep chill in place, the city of West Allis delivered water to flood to the playground surface.

Slight slip at first

However, the uneven surface combined with the return of warmer weather (and rain) washed out that first effort. If the cold had held out, the problem might have been overcome, said Barry Waddell, Friends president and also a captain with the West Allis Police Department.

The Friends will try again yet this winter, even though it's getting a little late in the year, Waddell said, and next year the group will aim for a December start-up.

"Next year we'll look at it earlier and get a base," Waddell said.

Milwaukee County is even open to having the pavilion serve as a warming house and a place for skaters to put their skates on, he said. The Friends will work with the county on the possibilities.

Warm ice memories

Waddell has happy memories of driving past the park and seeing kids of all ages skating and having a good time on the ice.

It's a healthy pastime, he said.

"It gets kids off the couch and gets them outside," Waddell said. "I think it's a great thing."

Alderman Michael May, who guided the plan through the Common Council, also nodded to the historic tradition.

"Historically there were outdoor ice skating rinks all over the city at various schools and parks," May recalled. "There are maybe one or two in operation today."

May applauded the Friends of LaFollette Park for taking the initiative to see the park put to more use in winter.

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