A member of a previously undiscovered species known as skateasaurus stakes its territory, tracing figure eights along the rink's hardwood floor. Dressed in blue-and-white shorts and a red trucker hat, the plush, green-and-yellow dinosaur—otherwise known as Skato—eschews eating children, and instead prompts them to shake it all about in rounds of Hokey Pokey. This fun ambiance extends to the rest of United Skates of America's roller rink, surrounded by lime-green walls and manned by a smiling staff. Inside the laser-tag arena, the outline of an asteroid belt and nearby planets pulsates under the glow of a black light as gunners duck behind posts and arches before homing in on their enemies or attempting to scan their allies' groceries. Around the rink, tables buckle under hot pizzas at bright-yellow booths, and gamers hone their skills at the nearby arcade in exchange for prizes such as backpacks, stuffed toys, and glow necklaces.
During the day, huge skylights cast a glow over Zelma Watson-George Roller Skating Facility's big, bright, festive rink; in the evenings, glow sticks and other fun accessories light up the crowd as kids and families roll by. Most days, contemporary hip hop and R&B provide the soundtrack, although occasional themed skates turn over the sound system to the likes of Michael Jackson. The center's cafe helps skaters recharge with wings, pizza, hotdogs, and cotton candy, and the arcade bleeps and buzzes with both video games and redemption games spooling out tickets that can be exchanged for prizes or added to an investment portfolio.
Ice Land USA's rinks cater to skaters of all experience levels, offering lessons and league opportunities at their two locations. The instructors at Hoover Arena and Serpentini Arena teach skaters how to improve their on-ice finesse, and youth and adult hockey leagues allow players to compete against rival teams or take shots on a zamboni posing as a goalie. At other times, the Colorado Avalanche-affiliated Lake Erie Monsters take the ice to practice for bouts against American Hockey League opponents.
An indoor skating rink, The Pond Family Friendly Ice Rink hosts skaters of all abilities during public-skating sessions—offered seven days a week. As the frosty stomping ground for the Geauga Youth Hockey League and the Chagrin Valley Figure Skating Club, The Pond helps young skaters find their stride on the ice without having to carve a treadmill out of a glacier. Skaters of all abilities can learn to glide gracefully across the rink during Learn to Skate lessons, which are offered multiple times a week.
Making its home at Michael A. Ries Ice Rink, the nonprofit Forestwood Figure Skating Club connects young skaters with goal-oriented coaching. Once beginners pick up the fundamentals in the Learn to Skate program, they can move on to private instruction with the club's coaching staff, which combines for more than 25 years of experience. These sessions prepare each student for serious competition, affording access to sanctioned competitions and private ice time on a rink uncluttered by fellow skaters or rush hour Zamboni traffic. The organization is certified by the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the governing body that oversees testing and competitions for all Olympic hopefuls.
When you look around the 150'x80' rink at Kent State University Ice Arena, you can’t help but be amazed at the variety of things going on. Throughout the week, the rink plays host to skating lessons, hockey leagues, and public skating sessions in which families and couples can spend a day zooming around. Sports players learn the intricacies of being the best hockey player around or learn a new sport in the rink’s broomball league. After hands and feet start to chill, guests can grab a snack and a hot beverage at the concessions stand, with the fireplace always crackling so guests can warm back up.