Local officials opened the first ice-skating rink in the city's downtown since the days of the former Niagara Falls Convention Center on Wednesday.

The "Rainbow Rink" is part of the city-sponsored Jingle Falls USA celebration but will be operated by the Merani Hotel Group, which owns multiple downtown lodging accommodations.

It stands less than a half-mile from the old E. Dent Lackey Plaza, where skaters glided before it was sold to the Seneca Nation and turned into a parking lot about two decades ago.

Niagara Falls City Councilman Bill Kennedy said Wednesday he has fond memories of his time there and the new rink is an opportunity for parents and children from the Falls to experience what was once a local holiday tradition.

"Now they're able to come down here and create some memories," he said.

State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, R-Niagara Falls, praised the collaborative effort led by the city's Director of the Departments of Community Development and Code Enforcement, Seth Piccirillo. He described it as a way to offer locals and tourists a recreational opportunity and increase activity during the city's offseason.

Morinello lives in the nearby Jefferson Apartments and will have a view of the rink on winter evenings.

"It's really exciting at night to see activity in downtown Niagara Falls," he said.

The project mixes public funding and private operation. It uses $200,000 in Niagara River Greenway Commission funding, part of the New York Power Authority relicensing deal. Merani was selected through a public bidding process and the Department of Public Works set up the site. 

The $8 skating fee and $4 skate rental charge will be retained by the hotel group.

Greg Stevens, the executive director of the greenway commission, said participating in the rink was a welcomed break from the group's typical infrastructure planning actives. It is one part of a broader strategy to enliven the winter months in the Niagara Region, he said.

"You can say it's not our peak season, but think of that as an opportunity," he said.

Stevens said the rink, which will remain open until March of next year, will be operated concurrently with the renewed Niagara Winter Bird Festival in January.

The rink's hours of operation are: 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. It will be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day, but the Friday hours will be expanded to noon to 10 p.m. during the school district's holiday vacation.