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The Ice at Canalside set to open Thanksgiving week

Start sharpening those ice skates.

Layers of ice have been created over the past week so that the Ice at Canalside rink can welcome its first skaters, weather-permitting, on Friday for Thanksgiving weekend.

Skaters will also notice something else nearby this year: An imposing steel frame for the new Explore & More Children's Museum rising from the ground. The museum is expected to be completed in December 2018.

"We wanted to get the rink open this week for the expats in town," said Tom Dee, president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. "We're working around the construction site, but we will still be able to have as many people on the ice as we have ever had."

A heated tent for buying tickets and to rent and put skates on is expected to open Dec. 1. It's intended to reduce wait time in the cold.

"There were days when the queue line would go all the way down Marine Drive," Dee said.

Be Our Guest, the Rich Products subsidiary that manages events for the Bisons, is in its first year of a five-year contract to manage and program events at Canalside.

A streamlined entrance process should help get people in quicker, said Matt LaSota, BRG's general manager.

Temperature must be under 50 degrees and dry to operate effectively, LaSota said. Skating stops if there's a heavy rain, he said, because that causes the ice surface to get soft.

"As long as it stays cold, we're hoping to be open next weekend," LaSota said. "Right now the weather forecast looks favorable."

Construction continues on the Explore & More building as workers get the Ice at Canalside ready to open. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Public skating will be 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. this Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Skating will then resume again Dec. 1. Skating this winter will be from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

There will be no public skating on Mondays and Tuesdays. The rink on Mondays and Tuesdays will be used for curling and broomball leagues, and on Tuesdays, also for pond hockey.

Admission is $6, $4 ages 6 to 12 and free 5 and under. Skate rentals are $4, and locker rentals are $3.

Curling this year is being relocated to the western end of the canal, near a tent offering food and beverages.

The Memorial Auditorium logo will be back this year marking where center ice was, with some original orange seats from the Aud placed nearby.

The tree lighting and holiday party, which attracted several thousand last year, is planned for Dec. 1.

The opening of Explore & More Children's Museum is expected to be the big story around this time next year.

The brick and stone museum, designed by Orchard Park-based Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst Architects, will offer seven educational play zones throughout the building, with a cafe and retail space on the ground floor. The upper floors will feature interactive exhibits.

The four-story steel frame is scheduled to reach its full height on Nov. 30.

"The topping at the end of the month will be just in time for our holiday party," Dee said.

The waterfront agency has contributed $9 million to the construction of Explore & More, one-third the cost of the $27 million project.

"For years people have wondered if we were ever going to build it," he said. "Now this gives a sense of the size of the building, and the reality of it."

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