New to the Mid-South this winter is the Memphis Zoo's ice rink — 5,400 square feet of slippery fun for a region more accustomed to skating on wheels than blades. Located near Teton Trek, the rink is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily through January 30th. Skaters pay a fee of $6 for an hour of ice time, $5 if they bring their own skates. As the zoo's director of events, Tim Dalfiume has his skates sharpened.
What was the inspiration behind the ice rink?
This has been an ambition of the zoo's for several years now. Our vision was to keep growing and enhancing the holiday experience at the zoo. How do we populate the zoo in what is traditionally a down time? So the rink became more and more important. We had donor support that believed in our mission as well.
Why now? With the expansion of Teton Trek, we had the perfect space to incorporate the rink. Space was a key issue, but we couldn't utilize it until we expanded Teton.
There must be challenges to maintaining a rink in an area where winter temperatures are often well above freezing.
We have a state-of-the-art chiller. We started making ice on November 15th, and people were skating on the 17th. There's an antifreeze substance that's pumped through the pipes. You make the ice in layers, with a hose. We have three-and-a-half inches of ice.
Who gets to drive that mini-Zamboni machine (to clean the ice)?
The company that we bought our rink from runs the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. They also do a rink in Lake Tahoe. We brought onboard a gentleman — Derrik Wagner — who has been at Lake Tahoe. He's come to Memphis to train and educate our staff. He's the Zamboni guy.
Are there any concerns about crowd control? Or a hockey game breaking out?
This is not a hockey rink; it's strictly a pleasure rink. It's family-driven, a great opportunity for families to come and learn to ice skate. Our rink can comfortably skate 100 people at one time.
What are some tips you might offer the novice ice skater?
First of all, you can't be afraid of falling. You can't look down at your feet. I found that you guide with your arms, and kind of lean forward. You have to make your legs limber, not stiff. You have to have a little bit of confidence.
What is it about ice skating that we find so tranquil? Is it the bright white surface? The chill?
It fits in with the holiday season. In the South, it's a novelty. Ice skating is not plentiful. Not only is it tranquil, but it's a form of artistic expression. It stimulates our curiosity. When we see Olympic skaters, and all their tricks and turns, we're intrigued.
Among the animals at the zoo, which would enjoy the rink the most? I'm thinking penguins.
That could be risky. A polar bear is the mascot of our rink, so that's a nice marriage. But a real 900-pound bear on ice . . . I don't know.
I've seen my share of Olympic ice skating. If someone can pull off a triple salchow, would that be worth free admission to the rink?
Bring it on.