Ice rink takes Centre stage at Delaware State Fairgrounds

Salena Iapino and Shelby Mayhall ice skate at the Centre Ice Rink in Harrington. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

HARRINGTON — For those who harbor winter-like dreams of gliding across a frozen surface on ice skates and similar pursuits, The Centre at Delaware State Fair Ice Rink has been the only game in town — or Kent and Sussex counties — since it opened 15 years ago.

Since its inception, The Centre Ice Rink has grown to become home to public-skating sessions, figure-skating lessons and shows, ice hockey leagues, birthday parties and, most recently, bumper cars on ice to try to get as many people involved as possible.

Alaya McCarthy practices her figure skating at the Centre Ice Rink in Harrington. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Jeff Grable, general manager of the ice rink, said that frigid winter weather such as what Delaware has been experiencing recently can serve as a magnet to get people into the facility.

“Ice skating is just a good event and a good sport,” Mr. Grable said. “It’s a different activity and a skill that you actually need to learn, unlike other sports where you can already walk and you can already run. This is something you have to learn to do prior to doing it.

“Plus, it’s a nice thing to do in the wintertime, though in reality we’re open nine months out of the year and we’re busy nine months out of the year.”

During the Delaware State Fair each summer, The Centre doubles as home to thousands of 4-H Club and FFA exhibits.

Jessica McCarthy, of Laurel, is a frequent visitor to The Centre Ice Rink as she routinely makes the commute to chauffeur her daughters Alaya and Cassandra to the ice rink.

“This is their second home,” Ms. McCarthy. “We are here three to four days a week sometimes.

THE CENTRE ICE RINK
Public skating sessions
(Cost $8, not including $3.50 skate rental during weekend sessions)
Monday — 2 until 3:30 p.m.
Tuesday — 3:45 until 5:15 p.m.
Wednesday — 3:45 until 5:15 p.m.
Thursday — 3:45 until 5:15 p.m.
Friday — 3 until 4:30 p.m.; 8 until 10 p.m.
Sat. — 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.; 7:45 until 9:45 p.m.
Sun. — 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
(Bumper cars on ice available during Friday night, Saturday afternoon and night and Sunday afternoon skating sessions)
For more information regarding figure skating lessons, hockey leagues, etc., visit The Centre at Delaware State Fair Ice Rink’s webpage at DelawareStateFairgrounds.com.

“They started skating four or five years ago and it was one of those situations where they were young and we went from sport-to-sport … we were at soccer, we were at cheerleading, baseball, softball … we tried so many sports and none of them stuck.

“So we went to ice skating with a Girl Scout trip actually and my daughters loved it, so now they started taking lessons and it’s the only sport they have stuck with over the years.”

Mr. Grable said one of the attractions of ice skating is its affordability. An hour-and-a-half public skating session costs $8 (not including skate rentals).

“It’s very affordable,” he said. “It’s $8 for a day so that’s cheaper than a movie and you get a little more activity. What we’ve found with hockey and figure skating, the kids that are involved with that are usually healthier and more involved academically at their schools.”

One thing is for certain, there is always something going on at The Centre Ice Rink, which operates from the end of August until June.

“The hockey side and the figure-skating side has grown over the years since its inception,” Mr. Grable said about the rink’s evolution. “Public skating was a lot bigger when the rink opened and now it’s kind of flattened out to more of a normalcy.

“But now since we’ve added our bumper cars on ice we’ve increased on that as well. We offer bumper cars on Friday nights, Saturday afternoons and nights and Sunday afternoons during public skating sessions.”

The bumper cars cost $5 for a 10-minute ride.

In order to have the bumper cars on ice, The Centre had to make a compromise with its weekend public skating sessions, which are both on the ice at the same time.

“It is done at the same time but the ice is partitioned off,” said Mr. Grable. “What happened was historically we ran public skating as an hour-and-a-half long session and we gave them a 200-foot by 85-foot surface to skate on for an hour-and-a-half.

“What we did was we elongated the public skating to two hours and then we shortened up the amount of surface they have. It’s kind of like an offset, but if you look at some of the ice rinks here locally seasonally, they still have smaller rinks and they’re still doing public skating on it, so the size is fine.”

Ice hockey is a whole different beast at The Centre. The ice rink is home to teams/clubs: Delaware Stars, Delaware Rough Riders, Delaware Prep, Delaware Lightning Jr. A, Lake Forest Spartans Middle School and the Salisbury University Gulls.

Ice hockey lessons and leagues are offered for kids as young as 4-years-old all the way up to lessons for adults.

“This is the only game in town down here when it comes to hockey and figure skating,” Mr. Grable said. “What’s big at the ice rink right now is ‘Learn to Skate’ and birthday parties.

“The average person can learn how to ice skate in around three to four sessions to learn to be comfortable to do it. Then you can go on to ‘Learn to Play,’ which is where you learn to play hockey, or you can go into figure skating and learn how to do that.”

Or a person can just choose to have fun and enjoy public skating and the bumper cars.

Bumper cars on ice are available on the weekends at the Centre Ice Rink. (Submitted photo/Delaware State Fair)

That’s why Jay Simpson, of Selbyville, brought his son Josh and his daughter Abigail to The Centre on Wednesday.

“We’re ice skated before, but not here,” Mr. Simpson said. “It’s been a while. We’ve ice skated down at Ocean City (Maryland) before, but this is much nicer because this is a full-size rink.

“We were on vacation for the holidays and winter break and we’re going to meet another family here. Plus, the weather’s not as bad in here as it is outside, right?”

Ms. McCarthy has made The Centre Ice Rink a big part of her daughters’ lifestyle. Their love of ice skating is just fine with her.

“Any excuse that they can come to the ice rink an extra day, they’re begging me to take them,” she said. “They just love this place. And why not? They have so much fun here.”

General Manager Jeff Grable at the Centre Ice Rink in Harrington. )Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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