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Daughter, dad have ice rink to themselves

May 25, 2003|by TIM SHEA

By TIM SHEA

It had been about 20 years since I was on skates when I took to the ice at the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex on the last weekend of 2002.

I was trying to find something to do with my 7-year-old daughter, Kielen, on Saturday afternoons during the winter months. We had gone to the winter skating exhibition at the rink a couple of weeks before and Kielen said she was going to be in that show next time.

So, onto the ice we went two weeks later to see if she would like skating - and to see if I still had any skating left in me.

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About 50 minutes later, I had two sore feet and we were at the other end of the ice when it was time for the Zamboni to come out and resurface the rink.

The final three people on the ice were the two of us and the ever-present skate guard. Kielen could barely get around while holding onto the boards, and I was coaxing her to get off the ice as fast as she could. The next thing I knew, we were down on the ice in front of a crowd of others who had made it off the rink a lot faster than we did.

But I was bound and determined to keep skating and to continue to take Kielen over to the complex. After all, she is being homeschooled and I wanted to make sure she fulfilled her physical education requirement.

The Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex is about a two-minute drive from where I live. It's also been a source of controversy since its August 1997 opening. The rink has gone through seven executive directors and/or interim managers since then and relies on a yearly subsidy from the Hagerstown City Council to continue operations.

To illustrate both the enjoyment of skating and the problems that the complex has had, just go over to the rink on Thursdays at noon. I'll be out there for my weekly turn on the ice and Kielen will be out there skating before her 1 p.m. lesson.

It's a good time and the feeling of gliding on the ice is the closest thing I'll experience to growing wings and being able to fly.

Along with Kielen and me, other people on the ice are ... either invisible or aren't skating. We've grown accustomed to having the ice to ourselves. I actually like the peace and quiet and all of the ice in front of me.

But it's hard for the complex to survive if it's taking in $5 in revenue an hour - the cost of two admissions for the noon free skate and skate rentals.

But it's also the off-season for winter sports, so a downturn in business is natural. The rink will continue to survive through the summer months thanks to hockey and skating camps, as well as the diehard and novice skaters who will take advantage of what Carl Langford, general manager at the Ice & Sports Complex, once called "the biggest air conditioner in Hagerstown."

Kielen has been taking skating lessons for about four months. It's amazing to see how far she's come in just a few months. My ex-wife even sent an e-mail a couple of months ago when I was on vacation saying that she almost cried when she saw how good Kielen was skating.

And, hopefully, she'll be able to take the ice for an ice show someday.




Tim Shea is a copy editor at The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, extension 7587, or by e-mail at tims@herald-mail.com.

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