With the possible exception of snowball fights, is there an activity more associated with winter than ice skating? If you’re not aware that Winston-Salem even has an ice skating rink, well, now you are. It’s cheek-to-jowl with BB & T Field and Joel Coliseum. An ice skating rink has been a feature of Winston-Salem at least since 1973, when the Polar Twins first laced up their skates for the Southern Hockey League. The current rink, the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex, has been around since grunge was king in 1991.
The rink is open from October through March every year, with public skating generally available on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays. “We also have all kinds of public hockey league options,” said Robert Mulhearn, Public Assembly Facilities Manager. “We offer youth hockey and adult hockey leagues.” In fact, both Wake Forest University and High Point University play some of their hockey games at the Annex.
You don’t know how to skate? Don’t worry. No matter how many left feet you have, you can learn to glide along ice. Skating group lessons at the Annex begin in January every year. You may not become the next Kristi Yamaguchi, but you can probably attain the level of Snoopy in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The Annex offers other special events, as well. On Friday nights when the rink is open, the lights are turned down and the music heats up for the Friday Night Ice Jam. In mood lighting, skaters can axel jump and fan spiral to the accompaniment of a live DJ. If they’re so inclined, they can take a break from skating to play video games or channel their inner crooners/divas via karaoke. And parents, we know you love your kids more than life itself. But admit it. On those days when they’re out of school, you would sometimes like a little peace and quiet. The Annex has what you need: No School Skate Days. The rink will be open all day on which Forsyth County Schools are closed. “So, if you need to get the kids out of the house, bring them on down,” Mulhearn said.
Ice skating is for everyone. Primary attendees are families with children ages six to fifteen, according to Mulhearn, who adds, “but we regularly see all ages out on the rink, from six years old to eighty years old.” Skaters of all ages glide across 18,000 gallons of water. A salt water system under the floor is used to freeze the water. Brine water, which contains a calcium-chloride solution, is pumped through an intricate system of pipes that crisscross pipes embedded in concrete underneath the ice.
And admit it. You know you’ve always wanted to drive a Zamboni. There’s just something magical about a great big machine gliding across the etched, scarred ice, rendering it smooth and tantalizingly skate-worthy again. It’s not as easy as it looks, though. “The drivers really enjoy riding the Zamboni,” Mulhearn said, “but you have to pay close attention, especially when riding along the boards.”
Why does the Zamboni-smoothed ice attract so many people each year? Mulhearn believes there are two primary reasons. In the first place, skating is fun—and different—exercise for folks who are trying to get in shape, as well for those who are trying to maintain their conditioning. In addition, he adds, “Ice skating isn’t something you can do every day or find just anywhere. It’s a unique activity that’s especially intriguing in the winter months.”
To get a full, public skating schedule, or for more information about ice skating at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex, call 336-774-8880, or log on to www.dcfair.com, and click on the “ice skating” tab.