Once upon a time, Augusta-area residents could only watch the Kristi Yamaguchis and Wayne Gretzkys on television, with little hope of lacing up skates and learning ice sports themselves.
The opening of the Augusta IceForum on Augusta West Parkway in January 1999 gave budding hockey stars and figure skaters a place to learn and perfect their skills.
"I saw it on TV and asked my mom, `Can I skate?"' said 10-year-old Zia Camacho. "I came to a public session first."
Zia started skating not long after the IceForum's doors opened. She has gone to several figure-skating competitions and brought home a few gold and bronze medals.
At various times of the year, the IceForum is open seven days a week for public skating. A two-hour admission is $6 with $2 skate rental; a three-hour session is $7.
In addition to public skating, the Augusta IceForum offers lessons in figure skating and hockey.
The next session of the Learn to Skate begins Aug. 21.
Children as young as 4 can enroll in the skating school, which teaches the basic fundamentals used for singles and pairs figure skating, ice dancing and hockey.
After the fundamentals, classes advance according to difficulty level, giving skaters the opportunity to learn the spins, jumps and fancy footwork that winter Olympians dazzle judges with.
This fall will mark the second year of the IceForum's youth hockey program. The season runs from mid-September to around April, depending on playoffs.
"In our first season, we had 190 in the program," said John Slamen, assistant manager of the Augusta IceForum. "Most programs dream about stuff like that. We have to credit the Lynx."
Augusta's hockey team has raised awareness and interest in the sport in the area, he said.
League officials are looking into creating a select group of traveling hockey teams because of the tremendous interest in the sport. For more information on ice-skating sports, call the IceForum at 863-0061.
LESSONS: Learn to Skate lessons at Augusta IceForum, 1249 Augusta West Parkway, will run from Aug. 21 through Oct. 14. The skating school teaches the basic fundamentals needed for skating and hockey.
COST: The eight-week session is $90 or $106 with skate rental. For more information, call 863-0061.
SKATING HOURS: The IceForum has regular skating sessions Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. until noon and 4-6 p.m. Additional hours are:
Tuesday: 8:30-10:30 p.m.
Thursday: 8-10 p.m.
Friday: 8-11 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1:15-3:15 p.m., 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 8-11 p.m.
Sunday: 1-3 p.m., 2-4 p.m., 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.
PRICES: Two-hour session: $6; three-hour session: $7; children 5 or younger: $3. Skate rental: regular skates, $2; hockey skates, $3