Spring must be near rink has ice skaters in shorts

March 10, 1997|By Will Englund | Will Englund,SUN STAFF

When ice skaters start showing up wearing shorts, you know it's time to begin thinking seriously about next winter.

Yesterday's mild weather brought a shirtsleeve crowd to the Inner Harbor Ice Rink -- and at least one man in shorts -- and maybe it was a fitting way to close out the year.

At the end of last night's session, Gil Boisvert and his crew turned off the big compressors and stopped the flow of chilled brine that runs under the rink to keep the water frozen.

Now all they have to do is wait for the 3 inches of ice to melt, and they can pack up until November.

"If we have rain tomorrow and the next day, I tell you, next weekend it's going to be all gone," said Boisvert, who knows something about ice. A native of Montreal, he played goalie for the old Baltimore Clippers of the American Hockey League from 1963 to 1970 and never got around to leaving Maryland. Now he operates the Inner Harbor and Patterson Park skating rinks.

All in all, it was a difficult winter, if you were in the ice trade.

"It was up and down, up and down with that weather," said Doris Boisvert, Gil Boisvert's wife.

"We almost closed last Thursday when it hit 81 degrees," said Gil Boisvert, "but we worked through the night and somehow we were able to reopen."

The mild winter meant extra duty for the eight compressors -- which chill a brine solution to between 14 and 19 degrees -- and a little softness in the ice at times, but it didn't dissuade the clientele. Attendance was up 5,000 from last year, to 40,000 for the season, said Melissa Ritchey, director of Baltimore on Ice, the organization that sponsors the rink.

This year there wasn't all that snow to worry about.

"Last year we had a little too much winter," Ritchey said. "This year we had too little."

Pub Date: 3/10/97

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