‘Tis the season to lace up those ice skates

By: Jessica Strachan | C&G Newspapers | Published December 18, 2013

METRO DETROIT — Can Santa Claus skate? You betcha. And you’ll find him spreading holiday cheer across a couple of local ice skating rinks this season.

“It’s a lot of fun. We try to ham it up,” said Tom Colwell, director of Berkley Parks and Recreation. Jolly Old St. Nicholas paid a visit to the Berkley ice rink Dec. 8 for the city’s annual holiday tradition, which is nearly 30 years old. “We tell the kids Santa’s on his way if they all say ‘ho, ho, ho!’ We get a pretty big rise when Santa comes cruising out.”

Indoor ice arenas make for the perfect activity when families are looking for a fun way to enjoy the best of the frosty weather, Colwell explained. It’s a tradition for many, a first chance to hit the ice for others and a way to celebrate what the season is about for everyone, he said.

“Skating, in itself, is a cold winter month activity, and it’s the Christmas season, so it’s a natural tie-in when families are looking for something to do,” he said. People don’t have to pay an entry fee to Skate with Santa if they bring a couple of cans of food, Colwell added.

“That’s really one of the more exciting aspects of the event: giving back to the community. People get to save some money and help those in need during the holiday season.”

With around 100 attendees, Berkley Parks and Recreation gathered a table of food to donate to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Patricia Fulton, Royal Oak mother of two, said her 11-year-old son, Josh, got his first feel of the ice during winter break a couple years back and has been in love ever since.

“He really enjoys playing hockey year-round. He hit the ice and was a natural, really,” she said. “Around this time of year, we always make a point to go to the ice arena (as a family).”

With open skate sessions at the John Lindell Ice Arena, 7-year-old Hayley, Josh’s sister, gets her time on the ice, too, though no one in the family claims to be able to keep up with Josh.

Hayley said she can’t go quite as fast but has a blast anyway. And she doesn’t have to hold her mom’s or dad’s hand anymore, she said. Sometimes, she still does, though.

“We like the music,” she said.

Ice arenas like John Lindell offer SK8 Jamz, a Friday night skate party, in addition to daily open skate sessions during the winter season. Suburban Ice, with locations in Farmington Hills and Macomb Township (East Lansing, too), offers the SK8 Jamz on the weekends, as well.

But the dance party on ice is just one reason to lace up this season; there’s a reason and way to skate for nearly everyone.

If it’s the inner athlete needing a session on the ice, hockey clinics are available at most rinks, like Suburban Ice, Hazel Park’s Viking Ice Arena and Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester Hills.

For skaters with the wobbles, there’s plenty of programs to show newbies a thing or two about the art of ice skating … or just staying upright. Onyx and the Farmington Hills Ice Arena are examples of rinks with learn-to-skate classes.

The tiniest of skaters have a chance to glide across the ice, too, with options like The St. Clair Shores Civic Arena’s Pucks & Parents program and Birmingham Sports Ice Arena’s parents and tots program.

Families can enjoy extended hours this season at many local rinks, like the one at the Troy Sports Center, which has open skate times each day through Christmas Eve, additional holiday hours at the Birmingham Sports Ice Arena, and Lunch Skate hours at the Southfield Ice Arena.

Finally, if it’s a skate with Santa Claus you’re after, families can spot him on the ice at Onyx Ice Arena 1:15-3:05 p.m. Dec. 21 and 2:15-4:05 p.m. Dec. 22.

The average cost for an adult is $5, with children’s admission falling between $3 and $4. Most places rent skates for an additional $3. Locals can also check with their community’s sports arena to see if residents get a discount, such as at the Southfield ice rink.

For more information, including the full schedule and prices, visit the website or call the ice rink that interests you:

Berkley Ice Arena
2300 Robina Ave., Berkley • (248) 658-3460

City of Birmingham Ice Sports Arena
2300 E. Lincoln St., Birmingham • (248) 530-1640

Farmington Hills Ice Arena
3550 W. Eight Mile Road, Farmington Hills • (248) 478-8800

John Lindell Ice Arena
1403 Lexington Blvd., Royal Oak • (248) 246-3950

Onyx Ice Arena
52999 Dequindre Road, Rochester Hills • (248) 601-6699

Southfield Sports Arena
26000 Evergreen Road, Southfield • (248) 796-4640

St. Clair Shores Civic Arena
20000 Stephens St., St. Clair Shores • (586) 445-5350

Suburban Ice
54755 Broughton Road, Macomb Township • (586) 992-8600

Suburban Ice
23996 Freeway Park Dr., Farmington Hills • (248) 888-1400

Troy Sports Center
1819 E. Big Beaver, Troy • (248) 689-6600

Viking Ice Arena
1555 E. Woodward Heights Blvd., Hazel Park • (248) 546-5700

Fraser Hockeyland
34400 Utica Rd., Fraser • (586) 294-2400