GRAHAM – Even on a cloudless, 60-degree day, it’s perfect weather for outdoor ice skating at Graham’s Captain White House.
In gray rental skates, kids are taking their first glides on the synthetic rink, which takes Tel Fehlhafer, athletics facilities supervisor for Graham Recreation and Parks, and his team about six hours to put together each year.
“It’s like a cutting board,” Fehlhafer said. “So it’s like a hard plastic. The skates are real, and the surface, we put an enhancer product on it that’s kind of like silicon that we spray on it, and then we put water on top of it and drag it, so it blends together and makes the surface slippery, but it still carves up, so we have to scrape it at the end of every hour to get off the chunks from where they dug stuff out of it.”
It’s far more resistant than a typical ice rink, so a triple axel might not be possible, but that’s what makes it perfect for small children who are learning how to skate.
“I was just lacing up some skates for kids who had never been in skates before and just their reaction to the skates was impressive and they hadn’t even made it to the ice yet, but I’m sure when they get off of there they’ll have gigantic smiles and they’ll want to come back tomorrow,” Fehlhafer said. “That’s really what it’s about: just giving them an experience that they probably otherwise wouldn’t get.”
Graham began renting the materials for the rink from Ice Rink Engineering & Manufacturing LLC in 2011 at the suggestion of Recreation and Parks Director Brian Faucette, who wanted to add a multiday event to their holiday season programming.
“It’s very family-friendly,” Faucette said. “Young children can get out there and truly can just walk on the ice. They don’t need the push and glide you need on real ice. We keep it slow enough to make that happen, and we have seen the same families year after year after year, so we’ve seen little ones grow up throughout the years coming to the ice rink. That’s probably my favorite part about the whole thing.”
In years past, the city charged $5 to cover the cost of the rink rental, but thanks to a grant from Impact Alamance that allowed them to purchase the materials outright, skating is now free for the public, including the skates, which come in all sizes.
The waived admission fee and new, more visible location on the front lawn of Alamance Arts has drawn in larger crowds. On its opening day, the rink averaged around 20 patrons per session, or a rough estimate of about 160 people.
“It looks amazing at night when the lights are on and people are driving by and you’ve got the Captain White House in the background. It’s really nice,” Fehlhafer said.
And though the 30- by 50-foot rink is a bit smaller than New York’s Rockefeller Center rink, the smiles on the children’s faces are the same.
Reid Allshouse, who’s part of the security team, is now on his third year of working at the rink, and says the kids’ reactions are always the most rewarding part.
“I love it. I love it. It’s fun getting out here and seeing kids smile and have a good time,” he said.
The rink is open every day until Dec. 17 with special events on certain days. Find out more at http://www.cityofgraham.com/departments/recreation-and-parks/family-fun/fire-ice-synthetic-skate-rink/.
Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.