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Rink at Headwaters no longer on thin ice

– For dark days at the Headwaters Park ice rink, it ranks up there with the day Executive Director Geoff Paddock broke his arm skating.

In fact, as far as Paddock is concerned, it was probably worse: On Dec. 21, the massive chiller that refrigerates the ice surface broke down beyond repair, shutting the rink for days just before the busy Christmas season. Paddock’s broken humerus in 2004 only kept himself off the ice – not hundreds of skaters.

Wednesday, Paddock unveiled a new chiller for the outdoor skating rink, a $110,000 investment he said will not only last for decades, but will even allow officials to expand the size of the rink if they choose and keep it open longer.

“It may not look like much to you,” he said, pointing to the trailer-mounted gigantic refrigerator, “but to me it’s beautiful eye candy.”

That eye candy was only possible because of donations by the English, Bonter Mitchell Foundation, the McMillen Foundation, the Waterfield Foundation, the Fort Wayne Christmas Bureau, Jim and Judy Zehner, an anonymous donor, the Headwaters Park Alliance and the Fort Wayne Parks Department, which gave $25,000 toward the project.

“We found we had a lot of friends,” Paddock said.

The money raised will not only pay for the chiller – a Trane built in America and sold and serviced in Fort Wayne – but also an extended warranty.

“This will work and function for decades ahead,” Paddock said. “And there’s a local team that can service it.”

When the old chiller broke down, he said, the rest of the 2012-13 skating season was at risk.

“These aren’t easy to find at the last minute around Christmastime,” Paddock said. Officials spent $20,000 renting one.

Skating begins Nov. 22, with rates that remain the same as when the rink opened 11 years ago.