Skating rinks bring spirit of season to Western Pa.
Temperatures neared 60 degrees on the first day of December, but that didn't stop Michael Maiello from renewing an old winter tradition — and possibly starting a new one.
Maiello took a trip to the ice skating rink in South Park, just as he did when he was growing up. He took his son for his first skating lesson.
“I grew up here, so I love coming back here,” Maiello, 37, of Peters said on Saturday while watching Anthony, 4, skate unsteadily in the children's rink.
“He's doing pretty good for his first time,” Maiello added as his son — wearing a hockey helmet — made his way toward the center of the ice.
Ice skating has long been a winter tradition for residents of the Pittsburgh region, and the number of outdoor ice rinks continues to increase.
“I've talked to patrons who come to our facilities — their grandparents came there, their parents did and now they're bringing their children there,” said Clarence Hopson, deputy director of the Allegheny County Parks Department, which oversees the rinks in North and South parks.
The South Park rink opened in 1968 and the North Park rink soon afterward. The Schenley Park rink opened in 1975.
Outdoor ice skating became more popular when the rink at PPG Plaza, Downtown, opened in 2001. Harry Datz, general manager at the rink, said it welcomed 38,000 skaters in its opening year, a number that grew to 61,000 in the 2011-12 season.
“It's popular because it's centrally located,” Datz said. “It's easily accessible, and the holiday atmosphere down here at PPG Place is just unbeatable. It's been a catalyst for a lot of the areas — Market Square, the Cultural District and whatnot.”
Datz said other rinks in the city help the rink at PPG Place to attract skaters. Although such competition would seem counterintuitive, he said, the PPG Place rink benefits when people are comparing facilities and nearby amenities.
The most notable of the other rink choices is Penguins Pond, which debuted for the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field and will open Dec. 14 at Highmark Station in Station Square.
The Penguins' success also helped drive up interest in youth hockey and ice skating in general, local rink officials said.
“The success of the Penguins — I think that's also caused an increase in the skating, but I think basically it's just a traditional thing in this area,” Hopson said.
But at least one such official is keeping a close eye on the NHL lockout.
“It does make a difference when there's hockey going,” said Mirella Ranallo, supervisor of the Schenley Skating rink. “People get excited when they see hockey being played on TV or going to the games. There's no hockey this year, and it's probably going to affect us.”
Municipalities are getting into the ice skating business.
Seven Fields borough council recently approved the purchase of an outdoor ice skating rink at a cost of less than $4,000.
Borough Manager Tom Smith said the feedback since council approved the purchase on Nov. 26 was “amazing.”
“It's almost like a firework show in Western Pennsylvania,” he said. “I'm hearing from different communities emailing me about our ice rink. Within Seven Fields, there's quite a bit of excitement and anticipation.”
Smith said he expects the rink to be delivered this week, and it should be erected by mid-December, weather-permitting.
Naturally, the weather affects rinks' business. Hopson said as long as the temperatures stay in the 60s during the afternoon, the North and South Park rinks usually get good business. If the temperatures reach higher, the ice becomes soft.
Ranallo said the mild 2011-12 winter negatively affected business.
“When the temperature is high and the sun is out, the ice is soft,” Ranallo said. “There was a few times we had to close during the day sessions. Once the sun goes down, the evening sessions are good, but you lose your attendance during the day sessions.”
There are plenty of indoor options in the region.
Most rinks in Western Pennsylvania are open or are scheduled to open soon, and they'll close for the season at varying times through March.
Rink officials hope have good attendance the season, and people from the area are likely to make that happen.
That includes Barb O'Leary of Upper St. Clair, who went to the rink at South Park as a child and whose daughter, Kelsey, held a half-birthday party at the rink on Dec. 1.
“She loves coming here,” O'Leary said. “It's fun to have my daughter come back and experience something I did many years ago.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Contact him at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man shot while driving through Liberty Tunnel
- Pa. gaming industry’s growth amplifies siren call for addicts
- Lowly job likely awaits former Pittsburgh police chief after prison
- Little Free Libraries catching on in Pittsburgh region
- Feds want to seize cash, property from suspects in drug bust
- Penn Hills police investigating suspected credit card abuse in school district
- Under Armour latest tenant on Allegheny County Airport Authority property
- Woman operating scooter struck by freight train dies in Coraopolis
- Grand jury investigating Plum sex scandal involving possibly 8 students
- Newsmaker: John F. Alcorn
- 9 juveniles charged in connection with opening day disturbance at Kennywood