Blithewold gets grant for synthetic ice rink

Posted 5/24/24

A $50,000 infusion of cash means soon you will be able to skate at Blithewold, no cold weather needed!

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

Blithewold gets grant for synthetic ice rink


Every year, when the wedding season draws to a close and the tent comes down in October, Tree Callanan, Blithewold’s Director of Museum Operations and Communications, looks out her office window at the empty concrete tent pad and thinks, “ice rink.” This year, she’s going to be doing something about it.

When Rhode Island Commerce recently sent out a Request For Proposal (RFP) to fund new attraction and destination events, Callanan wrote a grant with her proposal — and it hit. Blithewold, awarded $50,000 for the project “Ice Skating at The Pavilion on Lovers Lane”, is one of 24 awardees across the state that will be receiving a total of $2.7 million in federal funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). 

“When we welcome visitors to Rhode Island, we showcase all that makes the Ocean State so great.” said Governor Dan McKee in a press release announcing the funding. “With these awards, we are investing in the future of the state’s already fast-growing tourism economy and are empowering the thousands of unique small businesses that call Rhode Island home to succeed.”

“Our hospitality and tourism industries are economic engines for the state, having helped attract a record number of visitors in 2022,” said Secretary of Commerce Liz Tanner in the release. “Supporting initiatives such as these not only draw visitors, but they also stimulate local businesses, create jobs, and foster a sense of pride and identity in our communities.”

EDA sub-awards were made available to provide seed funding for the development of new attractions and recurring events across Rhode Island, with special consideration given to proposals that drive tourism during the shoulder and off-season months of November through April.

This is the second of two Events and Attractions RFPs; in total Rhode Island Commerce has awarded $3,431,050 in federal funds to support new and existing events and attractions.

“This is pretty exciting,” Callanan said. “It just makes sense — we have bathrooms, there is a pavilion, and the $50,000 will cover the rink, complete with skates and sharpening equipment. As envisioned, the grant would cover the costs including marketing, staffing, and the product.”

The “product” is fascinating — and well-suited for a location with an important in-season purpose in a region that saw very few days of frozen ice in recent winters.

“It’s not ice,” said Callanan. Produced by a company called Kwik Rink, it’s a synthetic surface made from plastic polymers that mimic the properties of real ice, allowing for skating and other ice sports to be enjoyed in any climate and at any time of the year. Unlike traditional ice, which requires constant maintenance, freezing conditions, and expensive equipment, synthetic ice provides a more sustainable, eco-friendly, and cost-effective alternative. It snaps together, can be stored in a relatively small space during the on-season, and swept clean with a broom — no zamboni needed.

“We can keep going it for a long time,” said Callanan. The plan as it stands would be to open the rink on weekends to start, and charge per diem.

Bonus: it’s not a massive departure from Blithewold’s Mission and History. According to Callanan, Margaret Whitehead, Blithewold’s longtime curator, is an enthusiastic supporter of the plan.

“We have film of the family skating, doing the whip,” she said. “So we know they enjoyed ice skating. I think they’d be thrilled to have a rink.”

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email