Seasonal indoor ice rink planned for Myrtle Beach Mall

Ice is in the Grand Strand’s forecast again, but nothing like the frosty storms that struck the Carolinas last winter.

A seasonal ice rink is planned at Myrtle Beach Mall at U.S. 17 and S.C. 22.

Look for construction to begin soon between the Carmike 12 movie theater and Radio Shack, among the four roof-support poles next to Victoria’s Secret.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Steve Elias, founder of Grand Strand Ice Management who has worked to help bring an ice rink to the area for nearly five years. “I started this because as someone from New Jersey who had no ice rink after moving to Myrtle Beach, it was the one thing I missed from New Jersey that I felt we needed to give back to my family.”

Elias said exact public skating times will be set in alignment with store hours and that proposed dates are Nov. 14-Jan. 8, or maybe longer “if the community takes to it.” He said through correspondence initiated from the mall’s general manager, Joe Perl, and its new ownership since May, two California-based real estate investment firms, Peak Financial Partners and Misuma Holdings, a referral led to Ice Rink Events, which will set up and maintain the rink.

Mall officials could not be reached Thursday. Elias said the mall planned to announce details of the ice rink Friday.

Dave Pritchard, the Florida-based senior sales manager covering the Southeast for the Houston-based Ice Rink Events, said the firm puts up about “50 rinks a year” indoors and outside across North, Central and South America, including this year, in Atlanta, Rock Hill, Durham, N.C., and other spots in Alabama, Florida and Texas.

For people ‘to just try it out’

Pritchard said the somewhat square, roughly 37-by-45-foot indoor ice pad coming to Myrtle Beach Mall is not geared to a “professional ice skater,” but instead, for people who want to just try it out and glide on ice.

“It’s that family who wants a new tradition,” he said, “that first time that little 10-year-old has been on ice skates, and the neighbors who want to go and laugh at each other when they fall down. That’s our typical Southern rink customer.”

This rink, Elias said, represents “introducing a Northern activity to a Southern population and a Southern tourist population.” He said plans call for stocking about 200 pairs of rental skates on hand, and that without glass walls, it cannot accommodate standard hockey games and pucks that are shot with 100-mph velocity, but he hopes learn-to-skate and some hockey basics to try are in the offing for the public. The avid New York Rangers fan also voiced hope for the possibility of arranging ice access for individuals with mobility disabilities or without legs through some sled hockey play, “a great activity for people in the area.”

Elias said this proposal to map out this seasonal ice rink “came together ... with eight months of work in nine weeks,” and that a scheduled “all-hands on deck meeting” will iron out other matters such as rates, employees, events, music, Santa, mascots and the like. He also hopes that pending success from an embracing community, maybe a “whole-sheet ice rink” will evolve down the road, “where games can happen” and operate all year round – as rinks do in other regional locales such as North Charleston, Irmo, suburban Raleigh, and in Wilmington, where the Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers, a second-year ice hockey team that has won 7 of 10 games so far this season, practice regularly.

Working within parameters

Pritchard also praised Myrtle Beach Mall brass as “outstanding” and said Ice Rink Events has erected rinks “very similar to” the mall’s plans in much warmer climates in “Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador and Colombia.”

“We did two mall installations in India a few years ago,” he said, as well as “work for Ice Theatre of New York, and in Hong Kong, for ice shows.”

Pritchard said Ice Rink Events, when installing a rink in a mall already built, the company works within the “indoor parameters.” He said he and a team looked at “a lot of sites” inside Myrtle Beach Mall to locate the best spot for the rink, among pillars and all, and that once in town, the installation team will assemble the rink in “three to four days.”

A retired municipal parks and recreation director, Pritchard said he has spent six years with Ice Rink Events, and that he was a “customer” when he helped contract with the firm bringing in a temporary rink for Ocala, Fla.

This isn’t Myrtle Beach’s first time stroking on ice. Through other channels, in the late 1990s, a rink was set up for Christmastime on the ground floor of the parking garage across from the then-Pavilion Amusement Park, at Kings Highway and Ninth Avenue North in downtown Myrtle Beach, and at the turn of this decade, The Market Common had a seasonal synthetic ice pad for two years in the city’s Valor Memorial Garden.