About 80 curious ice skaters gingerly managed their way around Columbia’s only outdoor skating rink shortly after it opened on Thanksgiving night.
Most, it appeared, were novices on the thin blades.
Lexington resident Mike Rollins brought his three children on feasting day, “Just ’cause we never get to do it – the oddity of it,” Rollins said.
“I don’t ice skate,” his 14-year-old daughter, Madison, said without illusions of proficiency. “I fell once. It was on my knees and it was really cold.”
She said none of her White Knoll High School friends are into skating. But she and her younger brothers enjoy skating, even as they waited for a Zamboni to smooth the ice between skating sessions.
Sisters Angelica and Asherah Moore made their way to the rink as a bonding experience.
“We hang out at home (together), but we don’t go out that much,” said Asherah, a 17-year-old A.C. Flora senior, about 23-year-old Angelica.
The Columbia-born sisters – first- and second-time skaters – said they were being cautious.
“You gotta baby-step it,” the younger sister said.
The Main Street rink got off to a better start this year than last, when it was warm on Thanksgiving night, said manager Ernest Pryor. “This is a good turnout for opening night,” he said of the rink, which can hold 200 to 300 skaters.
The first few weeks last year were plagued with rain, said Pryor.
“When it starts raining people fall down,” he said.
Likely far from skaters’ minds on Thanksgiving was that the city has lost money on the rink each of the first two years of operation.
Between November 2012 and mid-January 2013, the rented rink lost $70,400, recreation director Jeff Caton told City Council.
Last season, the red ink rose to $103,000, Palen told council in April. He blamed last year’s loss on the rainy weather that kept skaters away during opening weeks and extended poor weather on weekends.
Attendance last season dropped by 6,300 skaters even though the rink opened a week later than it did in 2012, the recreation director told council.
But rink supporters say it’s a special attraction for the city center and offers skaters an outdoor option not available elsewhere in metropolitan Columbia.