Driving into the Village at Winona Lake during the winter is like entering a winter wonderland.
Independently-owned shops line the snowy streets, buildings steeped in history invite newcomers to explore, and a stunning view of the frozen Winona Lake tops it all off.
But the most exciting part of a winter visit to this quaint town is the coming ice rink and pavilion, which promises to turn the lake-season hotspot into a year-round destination.
The community of Kosciusko County has been dreaming of an ice rink for years. Now that dream is becoming a reality. In 2019, the K21 Health Foundation approached the Village at Winona about starting the project, which is projected to cost around $6.5 million. K21 promised a $1.5 million grant for the construction of the rink, which brought the project to life.
“K21 Health Foundation has had a desire to see ice skating available in our community for 15 years,” says Rich Haddad, President and CEO of the company. “We believe that the most important thing in the future of our community is that people have every opportunity to live a healthy life and be active year-round.”
The ice rink and pavilion are intended to provide a community gathering place for Winona Lake and Warsaw residents, visitors from out of town, as well as Grace College students.
Construction of the rink will use a build, operate, transfer (BOT) agreement, starting with a new company created exclusively for this project, called WL Ice LLC. This company will construct the rink, and then ownership will be transferred to the town of Winona Lake. Further fundraising for the rink will be organized by the town.
As papers are signed and connections across the community are formed for the purpose of this project, the builders set their hopes on breaking ground in the first quarter of 2021. The rink and pavilion are projected to be ready and open to the public in time for the winter of 2021.
The rink will be centrally located in the community, and visible from almost anywhere in the village. It will be available for open skating, renting, and other activities between November and early March, and the pavilion will be open all year for seasonal activities. It’s intended to provide a community gathering place for Winona Lake and Warsaw residents, visitors from out of town, as well as Grace College students.
“I’m excited to have something fun to do in the wintertime!” says Sarah Stephens, a Grace College student. “I can’t wait for the rink to open.”
Along with advancing Winona Lake’s future by advancing local placemaking and talent attraction/retention, the pavilion is steeped in local history. In the early 20th century, during the “Golden Age of Winona Lake,” evangelist Billy Sunday made the town of Winona Lake his home. As a result, the Billy Sunday tabernacle stood for 72 years and was beloved by the community.
Although the tabernacle is no longer there, it is on this land that the rink and pavilion will be built. In honor of Sunday’s impact on Winona Lake, the pavilion will be designed to resemble the tabernacle that once stood in its place.
“We’re always trying to tie everything back to the historical roots of our community,” says Nick Hauck, Director of the Village at Winona. “The opportunity this pavilion brings to the community is limitless.”
Hauck says that the village, which becomes a popular summer lake-season destination, is at its slowest during the winter. The ice rink will hopefully make it a year-round attraction to support the locally owned independent shops and restaurants in the community, as well as bring more jobs to the area. The pavilion will be a venue for music festivals and concerts, community holiday celebrations, and even weddings.
As Indiana continues to fight its obesity and mental health challenges on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ice rink will serve another purpose, Haddad says: Helping citizens stay healthy during the cold, winter months.
“We believe that an ice rink facility will not only bring a real solution to winter activity, but also improve the culture of wanting to live a healthy life,” he says.
Put the coming Winona Lake ice rink and pavilion at the top of your winter bucket list for 2021. Learn more on the K21 Health Foundation’s website.