OLEAN — Despite being hot and humid outdoors, the inside of the William O. Smith Recreation Center is just about ready to host thousands of skaters back on the ice.
The rec center’s ice rink had about an inch of ice as of Thursday afternoon, officials said, with another inch or so expected to be added before opening for the season on Monday.
“The tentative first use on the ice will be Monday at 6 p.m. for a youth hockey practice,” said Kris Shewairy, director of the city’s youth and rec department.
The first open skating is scheduled for Tuesday.
The ice first started going down the day before Labor Day, said rec center manager John Andhor, who has been slowly adding layers of water to freeze on the refrigerated concrete slab.
“You make ice like plywood — you don’t just turn on a hose and walk away like some people think,” he said.
Why not just add it all at once?
“Because it will crack,” he said, adding the layers add strength to the ice.
Along with the refrigeration system keeping the base ice layer at 16 degrees is the dehumidifier running at full bore.
The dehumidifier keeps the fog and condensation out of the arena, officials explained, meaning the arena can be opened in warmer weather.
“The idea of putting in the dehumidifier was so we could open the rink up earlier in the year,” Shewairy said, adding it was included in the $3.26 million overhaul completed last year.
The project included 13 miles of cooling pipe, more than 30 truckloads of concrete and upgraded cooling systems to make the ice, as well as other upgrades to enhance comfort and accessibility for visiting skaters. The ice reopened on Sept. 11 in 2017, with a formal ribbon cutting in late October.
The rink has proven popular over the years, Shewairy said, with admissions and rentals helping to support operations.
“We brought in $160,000 of revenue with the rink last year, and we’re hoping to do better this year,” Shewairy said, adding that will come from more usage, as fees will remain the same as they were in the 2017-18 ice season.
One of the biggest draws last year was the new party rooms on the south end of the rink. More than 100 birthday parties were hosted in the two rooms last year, he added. Costs remain the same as last year are $25 to reserve a room, and $3 per person including rink admission and skate rental.
“That proved really popular,” Shewairy said.
A new sport, ice bocce, is also being added to activities at the rink, he added.
“It’s like lawn bocce, but you play it with a puck,” he said, with elements of curling included.
One area of concern after last year — the removal of the concessions stand during the overhaul — is being considered for remediation.
“We’re working on plans for it now,” Shewairy said, adding feedback from users indicated that a concessions stand in the lobby would be a welcome addition for families coming from school to practice or free skating.
PUBLIC SKATING SCHEDULE
• Monday: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Tuesday: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 3:30 to 5 p.m. after-school special.
• Wednesday: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 3:30 to 5 p.m. after-school special.
• Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 6 to 8 p.m.
• Saturday: 1:30 to 3 p.m.; 6 to 8 p.m.
• Sunday: 1:30 to 3 p.m.; 6 to 8 p.m.
Fees are $2 for children and seniors, $4 for adults, and $10 for a family of four. The after-school skate specials are $1.50 for children, $2 for adults and $1 skate rentals.
Season passes are $80 for children and seniors, $115 for adults and $165 for families of four, with $10 for each additional child.
Opening weekend skating specials are set for Sept. 14-16, with two-for-one admission pricing offered, not including skate rentals.
SKATE AND SHOOT SCHEDULE
• Youth skate and shoot: 3:30 to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. $5 per session.
• Adult skate and shoot: 10 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. $6 per session.
• Early morning skate and shoot: 5:30 to 7 a.m. Thursday. $6 per session.
• Wednesday skate and shoot: 5 to 7 p.m. $7.50 per session.
• Sundays in September, October: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. $7.50 per session.
For information on events, closings and other tidbits, call 373-RINK, visit Facebook.com/oleanyouthrec or follow @oleanyouthrec on Twitter.
(Contact reporter-editor Bob Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)