Eastgate Town Centre Ice Skating Rink To Be Yanked

Tuesday, August 6, 2002

The operator of the ice skating rink at Eastgate Town Centre said she was told Monday night that the rink has been sold and will be removed next Monday.

"We're all devastated. There are a lot of tears," said Linda Pope, who has had the lease on the rink since last December.

She said she and two other instructors have a large contingent of skaters, including 35 who are scheduled to go to a competition in Gatlinburg soon. "Now we will have nowhere to practice," she said.

Ms. Pope, who is a Gold Medalist along with fellow teacher Deborah Cary Gibb, said, "We are asking that someone in Chattanooga come forward and provide us a rink. There are a lot of interested skaters as well as hockey players who would use it."

The Chattanooga Choo Choo at one time had an ice skating rink, and one was put in at Cricket Pavilion at Finley Stadium for several seasons.

The Eastgate rink has been the only one available for the past several years.

Ms. Pope said she was told by Eastgate manager Kathleen Freeman that the rink here has a leak that would cost $35,000 to repair. She said she was not told who the buyers were or the amount paid.

She said she was told that a group flew in to look at the rink "so I assume it will be moved a long way off."

She said she was told that a crew will arrive next week and will then dismantle the rink and truck it away from Chattanooga.

Jim Colbert, whose daughter, Katie, has been skating at Eastgate for three years, said his daughter "cried for hours" after getting the news. "She's very sad."

He said the closest rink is Kennesaw, Ga., and there is also one at Huntsville, Ala.

Mr. Colbert said some of the merchants at the center are upset about the closing, saying that many of their customers came from the skaters and their families.

"The owner of a Mexican restaurant said up to 40 percent of his customers were from the skaters," Mr. Colbert said.

He said Linda Pope "has orders for skating outfits in process. She's going to lose her shirt."

He said his daughter skates 40 hours a week at the Eastgate rink after starting the sport when she was seven.

Eastgate officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The third teacher at the rink is Kirsten Ferriera.

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