Anyone eager to ice skate, on a full-size arena rink, has heaven on Earth an easy commute away, through Jan. 2 at the Florence Civic Center.
Nick Hooker, director of marketing for the civic center, and Kaylen Snapp, its marketing coordinator, teamed up to discuss the hit this frozen escape for recreation has made across the region.
This year the theme is “A Winter Wonderland,” with the arena decorated with hanging lights and stars, dancing snowflake lights, trees, snow, and holiday music, mixed with some top hits from all decades, piped through the speakers. Find the coliseum at 3300 W. Radio Drive, at Interstates 95 and 20, and check www.florenceciviccenter.com for the full schedule. From Myrtle Beach, take U.S. 501 north, onto S.C. 576 west, then U.S. 76 west, then right (west) on the David McLeod Boulevard – the I-20 spur – for about a mile, then left on West Radio Drive.
Question | What prompted this second December in a row for these almost-daily Pee Dee public skating sessions? Is blocking off the arena schedule for a month a perfect use for what might be a slower time of year, event wise?
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Answer | This year, we brought back skating because of the strong community turnout we had last year, and the demand we were already receiving before we even made the announcement that we would be offering ice skating again this year. We started receiving calls to book skating parties in March. Ice skating is a great way for us to offer something different and festive to the Florence and surrounding areas. Normally during this time of year, we are booking a lot of corporate holiday parties, and so we can use this to make those parties an even more unique experience. Typically, the arena is slower during December, therefore scheduling the ice is perfect.
Q. | Last year, with such steady turnout – including from the Myrtle Beach area, as you noted a year ago, Nick – sessions were added for the week after Christmas. How far were people commuting, all season long?
A. | People from Lumberton, Fayetteville and even Charlotte, showed up. And there was a mix of people from other areas that were visiting family for the holidays and decided to try out our ice rink. We didn’t track everyone, but we had people from all corners of South Carolina.
Q. | In a nutshell, what goes into putting together an ice pad, with the dashers (for the rink wall), underground floor chillers, spraying the water, painting the ice white, and any other ingredients?
A. | The entire process starts with installing the dasher boards in and building the rink. Crews worked around the clock to build up the ice rink for opening day. The underground chillers have to get the floor temperature down to about 19 degrees to create the inch-and-a-half thick sheet of ice. The crews use about 15,000 gallons of water. After a few layers of ice have been created, the crew replaces the water tank on the back of the ice cart with a paint tank and paints the ice white, then more layers of ice are created until it reaches the correct thickness. The spray cart does most of the work as the guys drive back and forth shooting a thin mist into the air, and with every pass, a little more ice is formed.
Q. | How often is new ice cut during or between each session?
A. | Our Olympia – not a Zamboni, which is trademarked – goes out to resurface the ice halfway through each two-hour skate session, as well as once before and once after each session, just to make sure we have a nice smooth surface.
Q. | In his book, “Drive,” Larry Bird spoke of learning and practicing layups from both sides of the basket in his youth, to build multidimensional skills. For the ice skating sessions, is the direction of ice skating always clockwise, or midway through each session, might the direction be reversed? Crossing over on legs around corners, both ways, forward and backward, remains part of my routine every time I lace up the boots.
A. | Depending on the size of the crowd the direction of skating may be changed when skaters re-enter the ice after the resurfacing is finished at the halfway point of the 2 hour session. The direction also might change from one skate session to the next. This allows skaters to learn to skate using a different dominate leg and to change things up and keep it interesting. Most of the seasoned skaters tend to stick near the inner ice where they can pick up speed and keep distance from the newer and first-time skaters who find themselves on the outer edge using the dasher boards for support.
Q. | Something about gliding on ice guarantees a smile and taste of youth again. Does the turnout for these public ice skating sessions feed anyone’s desire to have a permanent Pee Dee-area rink – because the closest places to the Grand Strand for ice skating year round are in Wilmington, North Charleston, and Irmo, just north of Columbia?
A. | Ice skating seems to be particularly exciting around winter and the holidays. People are looking for something fun to do indoors this time of year. We haven’t seen too much demand for year-round ice, but occasionally people do ask why we can’t have the ice rink all year, and our answer is scheduling conflicts and other arena shows and events.
Q. | How many staff members go skating in their free time, to make this time of year even more merry, and does yuletide music play on the sound system?
A. | Many employees bring their kids, grandkids and other family members out to the rink. Its hard to see the ice rink while at work and not get excited about trying it out for yourself. The guys here like to skate around when no one is looking. Also, there is no shortage of volunteers to sign up for the “skate guard” shift, with the employees on the ice during public ice skating.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
Go ice skating, on a full-size rink
WHAT: Public ice skating sessions
WHEN: Through Jan. 2, all two-hour sessions.
WHERE: Florence Civic Center, 3300 W. Radio Drive, at Interstates 95 and 20 – From Myrtle Beach, take U.S. 501 north, onto S.C 576 west, then U.S. 76 west, then right (west) on the David McLeod Boulevard – the I-20 spur – for about a mile, then left on West Radio Drive.
OPEN: See schedule on calendar at www.florenceciviccenter.com/assets/doc/2016-Flyer-983f481ea4.pdf –
▪ 3 and 6 p.m. Sunday.
▪ 6 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday.
▪ 3, 6 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 17-19, and Jan. 1.
▪ Noon, and 3, 6 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 20-23 and 26-31.
▪ Noon, and 6 and 8:30 p.m. Jan. 2.
NO SESSIONS: Dec. 12, 13, 16, 24 and 25.
HOW MUCH: $8 ages 13 and older, $6 ages 12 and younger – and skate rental is $3.
▪ Group specials and private sessions available.
▪ “Disney Live! – Mickey and Minnie's Doorway to Magic,” 6:30 p.m. Friday, for $20, $25, $35 or $45. Buy tickets at box office, or at 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com
INFORMATION: 843-679-9417 and www.florenceciviccenter.com