On midday in mid-June, with the temperature at 81, people in shorts, T-shirts and sunscreen now skate around on a outdoor rink — with fake ice made from plastic! “Does it look like real ice?”
It does, from afar. Up close, the plastic panels appear snapped together like puzzle pieces. It doesn't feel like real ice, it isn't cold like the real thing, but sure seems just as smooth.
This is the latest in skating’s quest for outdoor year-round ice, partly to help skaters and hockey players who jockey for expensive ice time at a limited number of indoor rinks, some of which close for the summer.
Synthetic rinks have opened at the Museum of Natural History in New York, which had one last winter, and in municipalities like Great Bend, Kan., and Tallahassee, Fla. Brock University in Ontario trains young hockey players on a fake ice treadmill. And in Middletown, Del., a permanent rink called Skate Unlimited is also made of plastic, eliminating the expense and environmental cost of water for ice-making, and Zambonis.
“Because we’re in a room-temperature environment, it makes it more conducive and comfortable for beginning skaters,” said Carla Briccotto, the owner of Skate Unlimited. “There isn’t the need to bundle up and wear a helmet, so they learn quicker. When they fall, it honestly really doesn’t hurt. And when you stop moving your feet you stop moving, so they don’t have that overwhelming slipping feeling.”
Many rinks are produced by Super-Glide, whose president, Perry Boskus, a former professional skater, said earlier attempts at fake ice had involved slicking plastic with silicone, which was greasy and did not penetrate the surface, so skaters eventually hit dry plastic and stopped gliding.
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