Options for ice skating scant this winter

STAN HUDY/STAFF WRITERPeople line up outside the Capital Ice Arena in Clifton Park at the Clifton Common Sunday afternoon.
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STAN HUDY/STAFF WRITER
People line up outside the Capital Ice Arena in Clifton Park at the Clifton Common Sunday afternoon.

SCHENECTADY — It’s not smooth skating from here.

The pandemic has uprooted all facets of daily life, so it shouldn’t be surprising that public ice skating has also been a casualty of the virus.

Saratoga Springs has scaled down offerings at two city-owned ice rinks and is not offering general public skating this winter.

“We are offering open figure skating sessions with limited space,” said John Hirliman, the city’s administrative director for recreation.

Those sessions alternate between the Olympic-sized Weibel Avenue Ice Rink and the Vernon Arena based on availability.

And an introduction to ice skating classes is fully booked up for the winter, he said.

The Schenectady County Recreational Facility in Glenville remains closed to the general public, but is available for limited hockey practices.

One venue that is open is Capital Arena in Clifton Park, where business was booming on Sunday with lines stretching across the parking lot.

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“It was something to do with the kids during COVID, just get out during the break,” Laura Rossi of Ballston Lake said after skating with her two young girls. “It was enjoyable, we felt safe.

“We had called before and were just looking for some activities to do that would be fun for the kids to get them out of the house.”

They were accompanied by their grandmother, Gail Pipito.

“It’s well run in there,” Pipito said. “They only let a certain number in and it’s great.”

John Vandish of Clifton Park skated with his 8-year-old daughter, Ivy.

“I want to teach my daughter how to skate,” Vandish said. “My parents have two ponds at their house, they’re just not frozen yet.

“This is around the corner from our house and it’s nice.”

Vandish, who arrived 15 minutes before doors opened Sunday afternoon, plans to return to the rink during the holiday open skate sessions.

“I’ll be here every day I can,” he said. “During the week, I’m working so I can’t but for right now, come here as much as I can, especially with her, teach her.”

Ice skating is considered a low-risk outdoor activity by the state, which caps attendance at 33 percent of capacity, which amounts to 330 people at Capital Arena, a 7,000-square foot rink

Capital Arena owner Steve Burke on Sunday said the arena is capping capacity at 150 people, which he said they reached on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and started turning people away shortly afterward.

“We were very, very prepared,” Burke said on Sunday.

But on Sunday the venue apparently did not stop denying entry to patrons until a Daily Gazette reporter arrived on-site that afternoon, prompting an irritated Burke to start shooing people away, asking disappointed attendees to refer their ire to the reporter.

Burke didn’t return a request for further comment on Monday.

Stan Hudy contributed reporting

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