Many families found their way back to the newly reopened Augusta Ice Sports Center for a holiday distraction, but manager Duncan Crerar says the center hasn’t been the same bustling place it was before closing for six months.
“It’ll take a little bit of time,” Crerar said. “There are still people in Augusta who don’t know an ice skating rink is here.”
Only 40 youths have registered for hockey teams, compared with 200 children in years before the closing.
The adult teams have fared better, down only 20 people from about 100 players.
The ice rink, built in 1998, reopened in December after a lengthy legal and financial battle. The regular schedule has resumed for ice hockey practice, public skating, birthday parties and lessons.
Crerar said returning patrons can expect expanded and improved programming.
Free group hockey mini-courses will begin in late January after a shipment of new skates arrives.
Business was slow before Christmas but picked up after the holiday, Crerar said. Many skaters familiar with the rink and disappointed during its shutdown returned to the ice again this week.
For the Boykin family, the ice skating rink has been a favorite family activity since moving to Augusta from Myrtle Beach, S.C., three years ago.
“I was very sad when it closed. We used to go every single break at least once,” said Mary Ashley Boykin, 14, who skated with her 6-year-old sister, Georgia, on Tuesday.
Their mother, Paige Boykin, said: “We don’t get snow down here so it’s kind of like a winter wonderland,.”
Also disappointed when the rink temporarily closed were Dan Trachl and his children, Anna, 9, and Ian, 7.
The family even thought of driving to Columbia for their ice-skating fun.
“Normally, we don’t see this kind of ice. You can’t go out on the ponds,” said Trachl, who grew up skating in his home state of Ohio.
“It’s a Christmas thing to do. The kids love it,” he said.
Crerar encourages a family-friendly environment and also wants to cooperate with schools to teach children how to skate.
“Start young, and it’s something you can do for the rest of your life,” he said.