Brittany Mahon admits she’s not a fan of winter or its frosty sports. Until last week, it had been seven years since she’d been ice skating.
Only an hour into a double date with fellow UNC Charlotte student Tony Baio and their friends from Concord, Mahon was gliding around the seasonally-constructed Coca-Cola Family Ice Rink at Charlotte Motor Speedway wondering why it took her so long to return to the ice.
CMS and Extreme Ice Center are using this holiday season to give the University City area and the surrounding region something it’s never had: an outdoor ice rink. Located under a pavilion near the zMax Dragway tower, the holiday-themed 5,100-square-foot rink will be open to the public through Jan. 21.
“It’s been a while since I skated,” said Mahon, an 18-year-old freshman from Concord. “But I’m glad I’m getting back into it. It gives us something new to do instead of doing the same old thing.”
Extreme Ice Center is an 87,000-square-foot facility in Indian Land specializing in ice sports and recreation. XIC owners are counting on the people of northeast Charlotte latching on to the growing popularity of temporary holiday-timed rinks around the country.
The ice rink, which is about one-third the size of a regulation hockey rink, is the latest feature added to the Speedway Christmas holiday light display.
Uptown Charlotte is hosting an outdoor rink for the ninth straight year. WBT sponsors the venue, which is located at The Plaza at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Admission prices and hours of business are comparable with the Family Ice Rink at CMS.
Tom Logano and Mike Mulhall, co-owners of XIC, did some homework on how others cities and towns have developed temporary outdoor rinks. Logano spoke with operators at the Bristol Motor Speedway, which has had an ice rink to complement its Christmas light display for several years.
The race tracks at Charlotte and Bristol are both owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. Logano says that 25,000 ice skaters visited Bristol last season.
“We’re thinking that’s Bristol, Tennessee, and this is Charlotte,” said Logano. “We think we’re more popular. Getting the word out is important with (Concord Mills) mall and the hotels. Everybody seems to be supporting it.”
A Florida-based company constructed the Family Ice Rink at CMS by laying pipes filled with 12,000 gallons of anti-freeze under 4 inches of ice. The $100,000 project took about four days to complete.
The rink is too small for a Zamboni machine to resurface the ice. Instead, XIC built its own mini-ice machine out of a golf cart, which scrapes and sprays a new layer of water about twice a day.
In addition to ice skating, patrons can ride sled-saucers down the 7-foot by 85-foot ice slide. On opening night Nov. 19, Mahon, Baio, 19 were joined by Mahon’s former schoolmates from Concord’s Cox Mill High: Chris Skinner, 17, and Tyler Ranson, 18. They all took turns skimming down the slide and keeping track of how many times they fell off their saucers and crashed into the protective bails of hay.
“I thought it would be something fun to do in the winter,” said Skinner. “This is much closer to home. The next closest (rink) is about 45 minutes away.”
The Family Ice Rink is open 4-10 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. weekends. Special events are scheduled throughout the two-month season, including a night with UNC Charlotte’s club hockey team.
Other special features are autograph nights with NASCAR drivers and members of the Charlotte Checkers hockey team, a broomball exhibition, and a pond hockey night for youth. Rink manager Danielle Logano says that a lot of XIC’s youth hockey players travel from the University City area.
For information about Speedway Christmas and the Coca-Cola Family Ice Rink, visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.