Sacramentans flock to downtown skating rink

Michael Stockinger

It’s definitely cold outside.

But “sunny California” is still an unlikely place to see people ice skating outdoors.

But on K and 7th streets, just in time for the holidays, lies just that curious sight: An outdoor ice skating rink.

The rink is located across from the Westfield Downtown Plaza, also known as the K Street Mall, in the small St. Rose of Lima Park.

Ice skates are rented out and the rink is open from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends until Jan. 16.

Creating an outdoor ice rink in Sacramento is no easy task ?” think triple axle at the Olympics.”First, sand is put down and they put pipes running through,” said Chelsea Curshing, a manager and cashier at the rink.

“These pipes have glycol, a refrigerant, in them that keeps the ice frozen. There’s a giant freezer around the corner from here, in the alleyway, that pumps the glycol into the pipes.”

Water is added to the sand, which freezes, because of the cold pipes underneath.When this freezes, more water is added on to it in order to make the ice thick enough for skating.

The ice in the rink must also be resurfaced regularly for it to be slick and smooth so that it can be skated on.

In order to do this, a Zamboni, which looks like a smaller version of a street sweeper, is driven on the ice to smooth it out.

“It depends on how busy we are,” Curshing said. “If we’re really busy, we’ll use it once an hour.”

Cars bustle by on busy 7th Street, but skaters don’t seem to mind.

Music plays from speakers around the rink as people skate past the wooden background displaying the Sacramento skyline: the capital, light rail cars, buildings and the Tower Bridge.

A small cafe sits next to the rink, while the aroma of fresh kettle corn wafts through the park from a nearby stand as children laugh and play, parents sip coffee and talk and the first-time ice skater desperately tries to not taste the ice.

On a Tuesday afternoon, the rink is full of teenagers, parents and small children, and loud with laughter and talk.

“Yeah this is a school group today,” Curshing said. “We have a lot of school groups come here during the day.”

The rink opened on Nov. 4, when the temperatures were definitely less than favorable for ice skating. But with the winter weather upon us, the rink has definitely gotten busier.

Christmas lights twinkle in the surrounding sycamore trees, and lights are set up around the small park for those who prefer to skate in the park during the evening.

“We’ve had to close the gates plenty of time this year (because of skating capacity),” Curshing said.

Michael Stockinger can be reached at [email protected]