Growing up in the Virgin Islands, it wouldn’t have been easy for Sandra Foyt to pick up and go ice skating whenever she felt like it.
She wound up with the rare opportunity to do just that, though, on a visit to her aunt’s home in Maryland one summer as a young teen.
“She signed me up to do ice skating lessons and it was so exciting that I’ve just had a lifelong passion for ice skating,” said Foyt.
Others with the passion or those just looking to try something new can access a host of area ice skating rinks, parks and arenas this winter. Of particular note is the Empire State Plaza Ice Rink in Albany, which will open in early January for the first time since 2007.
As a journalist now living in North Greenbush, Foyt began chronicling her ice skating adventures and included that Capital Region rink on her list of those she is vowing to try out, which she eventually did.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “It’s definitely outdoor skating, so it’s a little chilly. But just that backdrop of the world-famous Albany Egg is gorgeous.”
The rink has been closed for the last three winters because of the state’s economic crisis, but a $100,000 contribution from the Lake Placid Regional Winter Sports Committee will allow skaters to enjoy the rink once more.
The state Office of General Services and Olympic Regional Development Authority partnered with the committee to open the rink. Any extra expenses for rink maintenance and personnel will be managed carefully, said OGS spokesman Heather Groll, through a combination of tweaking season length, daily hours and staffing.
Groll, who lives in the Capital Region, said people couldn’t be happier about the reopening, which will likely be the first week of January.
“Just from walking around the neighborhoods, we’ve heard so many positive comments from people being excited about it opening,” she said. “They’re eager to get their skates back on and skate in the open air with the shadow of the Capitol behind them. It’s just a beautiful and really unique place to skate. There’s really no other place like it in the state.”
In addition to professionally managed ice rinks, there are myriad places in the Capital Region that offer skating on tucked-away lakes and ponds in community parks.
In the Indian Meadows Town Park in Glenville, an ice rink is available for free skating, and another is available for “pond hockey” from sunrise through 9 p.m. Lights turn on once it gets dark, and outdoor lake conditions determine whether skating is possible in the park off Droms Road.
Both rinks are great for families who enjoy the traditional, days-of-yore winter activities, said Glenville Town Director of Operations Jamie MacFarland.
“It’s kind of more old-school if you will,” he said. “There’s nothing fancy, but a lot of people who go there say it’s like what skating rinks were like in their youth.”
Ice skating fans usually have a preference, but Foyt doesn’t mind trying anything once. Before the ice skating rink in Delmar was incorporated into the Bethlehem Area YMCA, she recalls it as the “most beautiful rink in the area.”
She skates now in the Hudson Valley if only out of proximity, but she used to really enjoy Crystal Lake in Rensselaer County during a good cold snap.
“I remember once skating out there, and you can just skate for miles and miles,” she said. “And it felt like something right out of Hans Christian Andersen story.”
Other Places to Ice Skate
Times Union Center Ice Arena: PRICE: TBA; HOURS: TBA; LOCATION: 51 South Pearl St., Albany; Phone: 487-2000;
Albany County Hockey Facility: PRICE: $3 regular admission, $2 seniors, $1 children under 5; $3 skate rental; HOURS: Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from noon to 1:30 p.m.; Tuesdays & Thursdays from noon to 2 p.m.; Saturdays & Sundays from 2:30-4 p.m.; LOCATION: 830 Albany-Shaker Road, Loudonville; 452-7396
Swinburne Skating Rink: PRICE: $1 regular admission; 50 cents under 18; HOURS: Monday-Thursday 3-5 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m.; Friday 3-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m.; Saturday 12:30-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m.; Sunday 12:30-5 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m.; LOCATION: Clinton Avenue and Manning Boulevard, Albany; PHONE: 438-2406
Buckingham Pond: PRICE: Free; HOURS: Dependent on outdoor lake conditions; LOCATION: Buckingham Lake Park, Albany
Washington Park Lake: PRICE: Free; HOURS: Dependent on outdoor lake conditions; LOCATION: Southwestern corner of Washington Park, Albany
The Crossings Pond: PRICE: Free; HOURS: Dependent on outdoor lake conditions; LOCATION: 580 Albany-Shaker Road
Clifton Park Ice Arena: PRICE: $5 regular admission; $3 children under 3; $3 skate rental; HOURS: Public session times vary. Check cliftonparkarena.com; LOCATION: 16 Clifton Common Boulevard; PHONE: 383-5440 ext. 15
Saratoga Springs Ice Rinks: PRICE: $4 regular admission members and $5 non-members; $3 children/senior members and $4 non-members; HOURS: Public session times vary. Check saratoga-springs.org; LOCATION: Weibel Avenue, Saratoga Springs; PHONE: 583-3462
Saratoga Spa State Park: PRICE: Free; HOURS: Until lights go off; LOCATION: Outdoor rink off Avenue of Pines and outdoor rink near Victoria Pool; PHONE: 584-2000
Schenectady County Recreation Facility: PRICE: $4 general admission; $2 seniors/children under 5; $3 skate rentals; HOURS: Times vary. Check schenectadycounty.com; LOCATION: 5 Tower Road, Glenville; PHONE: 384-2445
Messa Rink: PRICE AND HOURS: Call 388-6134; LOCATION: Achilles Center at Union College, Schenectady
Collins Park Ice Skating: PRICE: Free; HOURS: Dependent on outdoor lake conditions; LOCATION: Collins Park off Schonowee Avenue, Scotia; PHONE: 377-2871
Indian Meadows Town Park: PRICE: Free; HOURS: Dependent on outdoor lake conditions; LOCATION: Two rinks in park off Droms Road, Glenville; PHONE: 688-1200 ext. 321
Iroquois Lake: PRICE: Free; HOURS: Dependent on outdoor lake conditions; LOCATION: Central Park, Schenectady; PHONE: 382-5151