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The end is near for ice skating at Rotary Rink; Sunday will be last day for season

It's last call for public ice skating downtown this season, as Buffalo Place workers prepare to transform Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza back into a reflecting pool.

Operations at Rotary Rink will end Sunday, as warmer weather and the formal start of spring signal a shift in gears for the downtown business improvement district, Buffalo Place officials told the board of directors at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

There is little choice in the matter. "Rotary Rink is turning back into Fountain Plaza ," developer Paul Ciminelli, a Buffalo Place director, said.

"As we speak," Buffalo Place Chairman Keith Belanger interjected, in a nod to temperatures that are expected to reach 60 by Friday.

Officials said they are looking ahead to the summer concert series and other upcoming programs and events, both at the waterfront and at Lafayette Square.

Executive Director Michael Schmand said the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. will be voting shortly on a two-year contract under which the harbor agency pays Buffalo Place to run waterfront entertainment, including the concert series. That's much more helpful to Buffalo Place than the one-year agreements of the past, he said.

"We're planning these things many months in advance, without a contract, so this gives us some certainty," Belanger said.

The two agencies are already working to develop programming, sponsorships and site plans for summer activities, which may include a few new things, officials said.

"Looking at their program, I think it's going to be a wonderful summer on the waterfront," Schmand said.

Also during the meeting, Buffalo police Lt. Steve Malkowski, from the downtown district, briefed directors about efforts to rein in loitering and other problems at Main and Court streets, where large numbers of people routinely gather because it's the location of a state parole office and an outpatient drug clinic.

Buffalo police had a patrol stationed there but are now just sweeping the area every hour because of budget cuts. And Malkowski warned that the "situation will get worse now that the weather is warmer."

Police are also hoping to work with the management of the Town Ballroom to curtail the promotion of events with a history of violence, Malkowski said. That comes in the wake of two stabbings March 5 at the Town Ballroom.

In other matters, developer and board member Mark Croce suggested the city is missing an opportunity for added revenue by not putting sports-event parking meters near HSBC Arena. "It's probably the only arena in the country where, if you get there early enough, you can get free parking," he said.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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