For under half a million dollars this winter the municipality added incalculable value to the Whistler experience for about 17,000 people to date.
That's how many have taken a twirl or gone for a glide around the temporary village ice rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza, with an estimated 20 per cent of the local population also making the most of the ice.
According to Tourism Whistler's winter surveys — work that is still ongoing — six per cent of visitors this season used the rink. That's the same number as went snowmobiling and higher numbers than zip trekkers and cross-country skiers.
Those numbers have municipal staff thinking about the future.
"An enhanced facility is considered in the 2012 budgeting process," Bob Andrea, the municipality's manager of village animation told council Tuesday.
"Staff are exploring many alternatives."
The rink brought in more revenues than projected at $65,000. With skate rentals at $5 a pop, Councillor Jayson Faulkner wondered if there wasn't a way to recover more money and offset costs in the future.
"Five dollars seems like a really good deal for skates," he said.
Andrea said there were some lessons learned in this first operating season: expanding skate shop hours and the size of the rental fleet, and opening earlier in mid-December. The ice surface, as was expected, was also better under the pavilion than the uncovered track.
Moving forward, staff is looking at different elements that could be permanent and reduce costs in the long run, such as buying the refrigeration plant and embedding some of the piping.
The rink was funded out of RMI (Resort Municipality Initiative) monies, which are targeted to tourism projects.
The report states: "Any future considerations for an ice amenity project will include consultation with the community and resort partners."
The last day for rink operations is Sunday, March 25.
More retail space planned for village
Council has approved the first steps in a rezoning application that will see a new retail building in the village.
A 3,200 square foot building (302.5 square metres) is planned for the green space on Springs Lane beside the Lift Coffee Company.
About half of that space, however, will be basement storage. Staff is recommending a covenant on the basement space limiting it to storage use.
That means 1,650 square feet (153 square metres) of commercial space will be added as retail space in the heart of the village.
Council didn't have much to say on the proposal at this stage in the rezoning but when asked after the meeting if she was concerned about adding more retail, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said: "Yes and no. Ultimately it's up to the developer to determine the marketability of the space being added."
The mayor has fought for the preservation of the village in roughly its current size, pushing councils in the past to limit development and maintain the village as originally planned.
Wilhelm-Morden said: "I'm going to be very interested to hear what members of the public have to say at the public hearing."