Baltimore’s waterfront tourism hub will not go rink-less this fall, thanks to the ubiquitous philanthropy of the Meyerhoff family.
The Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, an entity founded by the prominent local family to support projects in Baltimore, Israel and elsewhere, has stepped in with a $115,000 donation to cover operations from Nov. 1 to Jan. 20.
“We’re so grateful that they made a commitment to open the rink this year,” said Waterfront Partnership president Laurie Schwartz in a phone interview.
The news comes three weeks after the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, manager of the Inner Harbor Ice Rink, revealed corporate sponsor Pandora Americas had pulled out after supporting the attraction for the last four years.
The nonprofit, which runs assorted other events and programs around the waterfront’s neighborhoods, began talking with the philanthropy around the same time it announced Pandora wouldn’t return as a sponsor.
“We did hear from a number of businesses as well that were interested… but nothing was really coming together for this year,” she said.
Schwartz had previously worried that Pandora’s late decision to stop financing the rink would keep the organization from finding a substitute sponsor. She had said the board had until Sept. 1 to fill those shoes before they would have to pull the plug on it for the season.
The rink was once a fixture at Rash Field every fall and winter, but the city ceased hosting it in the mid-2000s. Then it returned in 2014 with Pandora’s and others’ sponsorship, and relocated the next year to its present, 6,000-square-foot format atop the amphitheater between Harborplace’s two pavilions.
The Waterfront Partnership estimates it draws more than 65,000 visitors per season.
“We care deeply about gathering spaces and providing community programming, and felt this was an important opportunity to step in and make a favorite wintertime activity possible for the city this year,” said Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds president Elizabeth R. “Buffy” Minkin.
The solution is short-term. The $115,000 will cover the 2019-2020 season, but the Waterfront Partnership will need to come up with a more stable arrangement moving forward. Schwartz said she hopes some of the businesses that did reach out this summer “may turn into longer-term sponsors for next year and beyond.”
In what should be a boost for attendance, the ice rink’s return will coincide with the beginning of the newly combined Light City and Baltimore Book Festival, now rebranded as Brilliant Baltimore, running from Nov. 1-10.
Details on pricing and assorted special events happening at the rink will be announced in the fall; Schwartz said she expects costs–usually $10 entry for most adults and children, plus $4 for rental skates–to remain “mostly flat.”