Youths' pastime has parents playing it cool

July 20, 2006|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN REPORTER

Normally, moms drop off their kids at the Harford County camp and run errands before returning later in the day to pick them up.

But not yesterday, the latest in a string of extremely hot days, and not when it's a skating camp in the cool Ice World in Abingdon.

With the temperature in the two rinks at about 25 degrees and waiting rooms feeling like an air-conditioned home, many parents opted to hang out and balance checkbooks, catch up on phone calls or play games with their younger children until the figure skaters and hockey players were finished.

"We have a lot of parents using the rink to beat the heat," said Ed Slusher, hockey director at Ice World.

On a day when outdoor temperatures tailed off a bit from those of previous days - yesterday's high was 92, compared with 99 Tuesday - surreal sights were common at Ice World: coaches wore coats; a young skater donned gloves and leggings; hockey players in full gear performed warm-up exercises before taking to the ice.

"This is a good place to be now," said Rose Rochester, a Bel Air resident whose 12-year-old daughter was practicing spins.

Even parents who often stay while their children skate adjusted their routines. Denise Vlk, whose 16-year-old daughter was taking a figure skating lesson, brought a Scrabble board and crafts for her two younger children.

"I am a skating mom and a soccer mom. In this weather, it's easier being a skating mom," the Bel Air resident said, noting an increase in the number of spectators. "You can have quality time anywhere."

Jennifer Knight of Forest Hill uses the time her two daughters spend on the rink to catch up on paperwork.

"This is a wonderful way to spend a hot afternoon," she said.

Her 9-year-old daughter, Madison, accessorized her skating togs with thick pink gloves and black leggings.

"Skating keeps me cool, and I have lots of friends here," the youngster said.

Ice World runs three summer camps, and the mid-July session is the busiest, said Heather Piepenburg, skating director and coach.

"You don't have to worry about kids overheating here," she said. "They get out of the sun and get exercise, too."

Figure skating coach Brienne Fisk sported a fleece jacket all day, which leads to an odd ritual when she leaves the rink.

"I take it off at the door and I run to the car, and the air conditioning goes on right away," she said.

Hockey coach Mike Moore said he lucked out. Previously, he had made arrangements to take this week off from his regular job as a junk hauler so that he could participate in the camp.

"My co-workers [at the junk business] talk about the heat and staying hydrated," Moore said. "I just tell them it's a lot cooler where I am."

Ice World's three industrial-size air-conditioning compressors were running full blast, and the Zamboni ice-resurfacing machines got a heavy workout to keep conditions satisfactory, rink operators said.

Creating the right setting comes at a hefty cost.

"BGE is loving us right now," said James Cannon, maintenance supervisor. "We are using a lot more energy to keep the ice from melting."

Cannon's job is to make sure the ice stays smooth and glossy on the two 17,000-square-foot rinks. Slushy ice is hazardous to skaters. If the surface is slushy when he arrives in the early morning, he has to cut the ice, add a thin layer of warm water and lower the thermostat a few degrees.

The chill was not enough to get all of the skaters to show up. Some have called this week and canceled lessons, said Marian Repetti, a rink employee. One mother who called said she could not coax her child out of the pool.

That would never be the case with Julie Holt, 13, of Essex, who takes lessons twice a week.

"We just put a pool in the backyard, but Julie would never cancel a skating lesson to swim," Beverly Holt said of her daughter.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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