Despite its wintery moniker, Kent Valley Ice Centre doesn?t just thrive in the colder months. The public ice skating site and home of the Kent Valley Hockey Association also teems with warm-weather activities, housing miniature golf and batting cages on its sprawling facilities. In addition, the family-friendly sports emporium invites guests to a full-service cafe and bar and a pro shop where visitors can purchase hockey equipment, ice skating gear.
John Gustafson began skating at 5 years old, rolling along on squeaky wheels that would carry him toward a lifetime of high-speed competition. At 25, he became a professional skater, winning national championships in both speed skating and figure skating before settling down as the owner of Auburn Skate Connection. His love of skating hasn’t dimmed, though; even with his 69th birthday approaching, John continues to lace up his skates each day to gain an extra 2 inches of height and guide students in the sport he knows so well.
Alongside instructors that he himself recruited, John teaches the art of effortless rolling during private lessons on the rink’s solid-wood skating surface. The team imbues students with the intricacies of quad and inline skating while also focusing on the fundamentals of racing. Their dedication has borne some notable fruit. Olympic gold-medalist Apolo Ohno took his first glides at Auburn, working with John for three years before moving on to his life of ice-based glory.
With the opening of Pattison's West in 1979, Mike and Kay Pattison carried on a family tradition that began when Mike's grandfather debuted the clan's first rink in the 1930s. Today, the roller skating rink, which has been lauded by the New York Times, has been passed down to the couple's son, Darin, but still exudes the same values of recreation and togetherness as it did more than three decades ago, when families were held together with twine before the discovery of DNA. The 90-by-176-foot skating oval sports curved maple slats in a rotunda formation, which allows for smooth, swift gliding with the grain of the wood. When not teeming with open-skate guests or parties, the space serves as practice grounds for Pattison's Team Extreme, an inline speed-skating crew that ascended to the nation's number one spot in 2010 under Mike's coaching. The award-winning team serves as inspiration for classes for beginner rollers and aspiring speed skaters. The on-site pro shop and snack bar provides the equipment and fuel necessary to keep rolling.
Skate Tiffany's! Roller Skating & Family Fun Center exudes so much fun that it was used in a commercial for an Xbox 360 video game. After a quick look at the recently renovated rink, that's not so surprising: colorful bulbs fan out neatly from the center of the ceiling, with paper lanterns and LED lights also glimmering down onto the shiny hardwood floor. A brand new JumboTron TV playing sporting events hangs from the center of the skating floor which skaters whiz past on their quad or inline skates.
Between laps around the floor, groups can catch their breath in the arcade or fuel up in the snack bar, where the menu includes Hebrew National hot dogs, soft pretzels, and whatever else it is that roller skates like to eat. Tiffany's is also prime real estate for parties, as the staff often customizes packages for kids' birthdays, corporate events, and school field trips.
Wheelz Skate Arena provides a 24,000-square-foot circular playground for veteran and neophyte foot gliders. A three-hour solo session in the rink is complemented by a pair of rented skates and snacks from the nearby food court to provide edible energy or exciting obstacles for rival skaters. Between 12 and 15 students attend Saturday-morning group classes, renting skates and spending 15–20 minutes warming up, after which they receive 30 minutes of skating knowledge on fundamentals such as marching forward, starting and stopping, and fixing skates’ tiny engines when they overheat. Following the class, students can free skate from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., enough time to practice rolling presidential inaugurations.