It’s mid-November and Atlanta is deep into winter holiday season. My newspaper was weighed down by toy ads, lights are going up on houses and chocolate is showing up at the office wrapped in green and red foil. Best of all, the ice rink at Centennial Olympic Park opens this weekend. Take that, 70 degrees and sunny!
It’s the rink’s 13th year in Centennial Olympic Park, but it has a new schedule this season: it will be open for limited hours on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and will stay open till Jan. 31, instead of closing down for holidays and just after the New Year’s Day.
It’s not a huge rink — 64 by 116 feet — and has 350 pairs of skates available for $2 rental. (You can, of course, bring your own boots.) But as Rick Glueckert of Ice Guys LLC explained,the attraction is being able to skate amid high rises and lights with a view of the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium.
After 13 years, he said, they’ve seen families grow up on their ice.
Being Atlanta, though, the weather decides whether the rink stays open. To find out before you go, call the park hotline at 404-222-7275, check the Park Web site or follow them on Twitter, @centennial_park.
Here, Glueckert explains how they keep it col:
How do you make the ice? “We pump a second refrigerant through a piping system, 10 degrees above zero. We just lay water over that floor. When we’ve got a floor that is 10 degrees, anything we put on it freezes.”
How much ice? “We’ll have 3-and-a-half inches. We’ll continually maintain that level, depending on how many skaters come in. It’s all dependent upon the crowds. The resurfacing is done as needed. We lay water on the rink every night, a real good coat.”
How do you keep it smooth? “We’ve got a resurfacer. We’re on an elevated floor, so we couldn’t take the weight of a full-size Zamboni. We use a stage resurfacer – we’ve done ice at the Fox Theatre before, for “Nutcracker on Ice,” and this is what we used there.”
How do you keep it cold? “Fortunately, we’re covered. That is for two reasons – it keeps the rain off and it keeps the sun off. We make ice in Miami, and we don’t have that many issues as long as its covered. If we can keep it shaded, then we’re in good shape.”
How cold does it get for people who are skating? “You are on a sheet of ice. If you’re standing out there now, it’s cold. On a day like today, when you get moving, it’s sweater weather. This weekend is going to be in the high 60s – they’ll be out in their sweatshirts.”
What’s the worst kind of weather for the rink? “Forty mile per hour wind and rain blowing sideways. We’ve had seasons where we’ve never ever shuttered the doors. Last season, as you may recall, we had some horrible weather right during Christmas week, rain blowing sideways, high humidity. It was just nasty. Even though we’re under cover, people don’t want to walk from their car and skate soaking wet.”
Is Atlanta much of a skating town? “There’s a lot of transplanted northerners used to going out on frozen ponds. It’s becoming more of a skating town, only because of the Thrashers, the following of the minor league team in Gwinnett. There’s several indoor ice centers used for hockey and figure skating. This is strictly family fun public skating – everybody gets outside. They share the beauty of the park. With all the lights, it’s absolutely magnificent.”
Any advice for people hitting a rink for the first time? “Hold on to the rail.”
Want to go? Ice skating at Centennial Olympic Park. Daily, Nov. 14-Jan. 31. Hours vary. $7 for 90 minutes of skating, $2 for skate rental. Discounts available. Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Avenue West N.W., Atlanta. 404-222-7275, www.centennialpark.com.
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