I had heard about plastic ice from talking to show skaters. Back in the days, or maybe even now, traveling ice shows used panels of plastic ice for the skaters to perform on. Plastic ice was portable, served its (limited) purpose and I remember thinking, "Yes, I want to try skating on it one day." Well, that day came last month when I visited the The Polar Rink, New York City's first synthetic ice skating rink. Located on the Arthur Ross Terrace at the American Museum of Natural History, the 150-foot by 80-foot rink offers skaters plenty of room to practice (and fall).
But this plastic ice is not like your grandmother's plastic ice. Invented in April 2008 by Perry Boskus of Global Synthetic Ice, Super-Glide® synthetic ice is as high tech plastic as you can get. Perry advised that 320 interlocking panels comprise the Polar Rink and that the ice skating surface is made up of specially engineered polymers that permit a skate blade to glide as smoothly as on real ice. Super-Glide® is also virtually unaffected by high and low temperatures and is UVA-protected. Perry, who is based in Florida, attended the grand opening in November 2008 and further told me that, "Skating in the cold was my biggest challenge, the warm sun in Florida makes it a lot more enjoyable. It was freezing in New York when I was there! We feel Super-Glide offers a great opportunity for figure skaters to have unlimited practice time with no operational costs or having to fight for ice time at their local rinks. Super-Glide develops the strongest skaters so the future of the sport will be greatly improved."
The Polar Rink has as its centerpiece a 17-foot-tall polar bear, which coincides nicely with the museum's Climate Change exhibits (see right), which run through August 16, 2009. I spoke with Brad Harris, the museum's Senior Director of Visitor Services, on the benefits of a synthetic skating surface, which include savings lots of money on electricity, the cost of not purchasing a zamboni, as well as environmental benefits. For example, the surface panels are recyclable and can be used for ten years. And the best part? Cleaning it is a breeze -- a bucket of Dawn dishwasher liquid and voilà, the ice is ready to go.
But how's the skating? Well...here's the bad news. If you've ever skated on real ice, you know the thrill of gliding effortlessly from one end of the rink to the other. That's what's missing at The Polar Rink -- there's little sense of glide for the average recreational skater. Each push of the blade is quite an effort and your legs get a workout from stroking around the rink a few times (hm...maybe that's not a bad thing). The good news though? As the rink attendant commented, "When you do fall, you don't get wet and you don't get cold." But hey, overall this is a unique experience, so if you've ever wondered what it's like to skate on synthetic ice, this is the time to do it. The Polar Rink is open every day until March 1. Ticket prices are as follows:
- Adults: $10 ($8 Members)
- Children 3 to 12 years old: $8 ($6 Members)
- Students and seniors: $9 ($7 Members)