It’s a sunny but cold Thursday when 22-year-old Ross McClellon steps onto an ice skating rink for the first time in his life.
And, while some have said that the temporary 50-by-70-foot rink is a bit small, that’s not an issue for McClellon, a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“At the speed I go, the rink could be this big,” he says holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.
Since opening 20 days ago on the riverfront, Ice on the Landing has proven to be a hit with Chattanoogans who want a chance to show off their best axle jumps and camel spins.
Or maybe just remain upright.
That’s about all McClellon is hoping to accomplish. McClellon was tooling around the rink — tentatively — with fellow UTC student Kristan Cartwright, 21, also skating for the first time. Slowly and wobbly, the two made their way around the rink, seeming to gain confidence with each lap.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Cartwright says. “I think the price is just right [$10 for two hours, including skate rental] and the location is perfect. It’s a beautiful setting right here on the river.”
About 6,000 people have visited Ice on the Landing since it opened at Ross’s Landing, according to Carla Pritchard, owner of Chattanooga Presents, which contracted with Magic Ice USA of Orlando, Fla., to bring the rink here.
It is the only rink in the area, and the first since a small rink operated inside Eastgate Town Center from 1999 until 2002. Prior to that, there was a temporary rink at what is now First Tennessee Pavilion, where the Chattanooga Market now opens each Sunday, and a large rink inside what is now Track 29 at the Chattanooga Choo Choo.
The original plan was to keep Ice on the Landing operating through the holiday season to Jan. 4, but Pritchard says she has the option of extending the contract. And it looks like she’ll pick up the option.
“Based on the numbers so far, it looks as if we will extend the dates by a couple of weeks,” she says. “We will be looking at the extended weather forecast, and if people keep coming.”
The company offers rinks in various sizes and Pritchard says she will look at bringing a larger rink next year, one that’s 60-by-100-feet.
“I would be disappointed if we are not able to do it,” she says.
But plans do not include moving the rink indoors or to any other location, for that matter.
“I think it is an ideal location where it is,” she says. “There is plenty of parking, and it is such a beautiful setting.”
About 30 people were out on the ice last Thursday. It appeared most of them were skating for the first time, at least judging by the number of people using “buddies,” the metal walkers that keep you from falling, and the number clinging to the side walls for comfort and support.
When they got away from the walls, most skaters had their arms out for balance as they tried to get the hang of it, and there was more wobbling than gliding.
“I like skating around and, when I fall, I get back up,” says Carter Brown, 8.
Carter fell often, but he was having a good time.
“It’s fun,” he says with a smile.
He was with his mother, Kendall, father, Shelley, and younger sisters Mallie and Campbell.
“We went to the ‘Nutcracker’ at the Tivoli this morning and just decided ‘Let’s skip school and make a day of it,’” Kendall says.
Amy Shelby wanted to do something different for daughter Sierra’s 3rd birthday, and ice skating fit the bill. After her first lap around the rink with mom and a buddy, Sierra wasn’t sure skating was for her. After a brief rest, however, she was tugging on mom’s arm to go again.
“I’ve wanted to do this since hearing it was coming,” says Shelby, who tried ice skating before in Gatlinburg.
Novices were sharing the ice with experienced skaters, including members of hockey teams — both roller and ice — in the region. These members of the so-called “ice patrol” were there to offer advice and help.
“We’ve gotten great comments on the ice patrol,” Pritchard says.
Pritchard also has invited skilled skaters to showcase their talents, and last week there was a figure skater in the center of the rink doing spins and other moves to show people what can be done.
“Every day has exceeded our hopes and expectations and projections,” Prichard says.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.