Sean-Patrice was just a few hours past his Thanksgiving feast and afternoon nap as he skillfully maneuvered through the masses at Columbia’s new downtown skating rink Thursday evening.
For the long-time Canadian resident, the official opening of the city’s Main Street Ice was a flashback to his childhood days skating on the frozen ponds of Quebec. And for the hundreds more who flocked to the official opening at Main and Hampton streets, it was a promise of things to come.
“The ponds were usually about this big,” Patrice said as he surveyed the 50-by-63-foot synthetic ice-skating rink in front of the Columbia Museum of Art.
Thursday’s free admission, including skate rentals, fueled the enthusiasm surrounding the opening of the area’s first outdoor rink. By 5:30 p.m. Thursday the rental line stretched a half-block down the street.
“This is exciting,” said Columbia’s Joe Summers, who brought his four teenage children. “It will be exciting for the kids to have something to do.”
The dozens inside the rink at any one time featured a mixt of skaters, from seasoned to novice. As several glided around with ease, others were much more tentative, sometimes clinging to the edges.
And there was more than the occasional flop.
“It’s scary,” said Columbia’s Allison Cupp, who came out with her sister Katherine and their parents. The two said it was the first time anyone in their family had ice-skated but added they were glad to finally have a rink.
Dutch Fork Middle School student Mason Guthrie was among the more seasoned skaters. Mason’s family moved to the area six years ago from Chicago, where he skated as a younger child. He’s since skated regularly at The Plex in Irmo.
“They had these everywhere (in Chicago),” he said. “I was happy to see it here.”
Main Street Ice, created through a partnership between the city of Columbia and Magic Ice U.S.A, is expected to provide more recreational opportunities for the area and boost visits to the city center.
“We firmly believe that the heart of any community is having a vibrant urban core,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said during ribbon-cutting ceremonies Wednesday. “The rink is another high-water mark in making this happen.”
The rink will be open every day through Jan. 6, except Christmas day.