Hit the ice for winter fun

Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNISAlana St. Germain, left, and Brittany Hendricks help Lilli St. Germain keep her balance whle ice skating for the first time during a skating session last year at the River Center's annual Skating on the River.
Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNISAlana St. Germain, left, and Brittany Hendricks help Lilli St. Germain keep her balance whle ice skating for the first time during a skating session last year at the River Center's annual Skating on the River.

Area rinks provide patrons with an opportunity to experience ice skating

Walking into LA Ice-Louisiana Ice Arena in Carencro makes the warmest winter day feel a little closer to Christmas. Anyone who spends a few hours there might even forget that the arena is in Louisiana.

LA Ice is even decked out for the holidays with lights, festively decorated trees, and “snow” made with ice shavings from the ice resurfacing machine.

“It’s hard to get people ice-minded when it’s 89 degrees (outside),” said Tamarah Hooper, director of programming and public relations for LA Ice. “But once people get started (ice skating), they love it.”

Originally from Canada, Hooper fell in love with Lafayette while touring with Disney on Ice in 2005.

Though she enjoyed being a professional figure skater, she knew she couldn’t do it forever.

“You come to a point where you just can’t handle the shows (physically) anymore,” she said.

When she walked into LA Ice, it felt like home.

“The first things I saw were the Canadian flag and the flag for my province (British Columbia),” Hooper said.

Ice skating is great fun and exercise for all ages, she said.

“It gives kids an alternative, something to do. We like to say that kids that spend time on the ice are hardly ever in hot water,” she said.

The rink offers year round ice-skating lessons, open skating, hockey teams for kids and adults, summer camps, special events and birthday parties.

“It feels great to be in here in the summertime,” Hooper said.

She estimated that the arena is kept around 34-36 degrees. The concession and spectator areas are slightly warmer because the wooden barrier around the ice rink keeps in the cold, she explained.

People going to skate should dress in something warm that allows them to move, Hooper said. She recommends hats, gloves, and calf-length socks.

For those who don’t know how to skate, lessons are available.

“Our learn-to-skate program is nationally accredited,” she said.

For those in the Baton Rouge area, the Baton Rouge River Center and Leo’s Iceland offer open skating sessions during the holiday season.

The River Center’s popular Skating on the River is open from Friday-Wednesday, Dec. 21-Jan. 2. Some sessions have already sold out.

Baton Rouge resident Shelly Brizzard Ortiz went to the event last year.

“What I loved about it was that it was something we could do together as a family,” she said.

It was an especially fun treat for her family members from Florida, she added.

According to River Center marketing manager Jessi Mapes, each hour-and-a-half session can accommodate 250 people.

Last year 11,000-12,000 skaters came out for the event, she said. The first session that begins at 5 p.m. on Friday is free and Santa Claus will make an appearance at 7:30 p.m.

For all sessions, Christmas music is provided by Clear Channel and 96.1 The River.

Mapes suggested that people buy tickets for sessions in advance. Friday and Saturday nights are especially popular times, she said. Non-skaters, such as parents and grandparents, are welcome to sit and watch for free. Birthday parties and special rates for groups are also available.

Getting the River Center ready for skating is a process, Mapes said. “First we have to put the floor out and make it sweat because the floor actually freezes,” she said. After putting in the ice, they “paint it to make it pretty” and then freeze it again before running the ice resurfacer across the rink. The crew started the process on Monday and were due to be finished by Thursday, she said.