Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, now 4 years old, has become as much a community center as ice rink and is gearing up for its busiest months of the year.
The Washington Capitals National Hockey League team has practiced there since September. Youth hockey has proved to be extremely popular. More than 200 people have signed up for figure-skating lessons to begin in December, and about 60 skaters are involved in the rink's competitive figure-skating programs.
The demand for time on the ice is so great that the rink is open some days from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.
"It has met up with our expectations," said Stanley J. Klos Jr., president of the management company that runs the rink. "Our biggest problem remains that we cannot provide enough prime ice."
Prime ice is skating time between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Mr. Klos and a friend, Robert D. Hauk, initiated plans for the arena because they thought Anne Arundel County needed another place to accommodate fast-growing youth hockey leagues. Both men have children who play hockey, and the only other year-round rink in the county is on Benfield Road in Millersville.
Mr. Klos and Mr. Hauk persuaded KMS, developers of Piney Orchard, to build and help finance the rink off Piney Orchard Parkway. It attracts skaters and hockey teams from all over Anne Arundel and elsewhere.
On a recent afternoon, about 200 people came out for skating during a public session.
"It's probably my favorite" rink, said Richard Huffman, 13, of Bowie, who plays hockey. "It's so big. The ice is so much better than the other ones. It's easier to skate on."
The rink was built to NHL standards for the Capitals.
For Kevin Pippin and his 4-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, ice skating is affordable family entertainment.
Mr. Pippin bought three admission tickets for $3 each and rented skates for himself and his daughter, for $12.
"You can't go to the movies for that," he said.
He likes the rink. "It's a little roomier. They have it set up more for spectators."
Permanent bleachers with seating for 500 on one side and picnic tables at one end are favored by nonskaters for watching the action on the ice.
The Capitals, area high school and college hockey teams, youth hockey leagues and an increasingly popular adult league are the main users. The in-house youth league has been a real success.
"This year, there's probably about 300 kids," said rink Manager Kevin Potter. "It's growing by leaps and bounds."