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Ice skating season ends on Empire State Plaza

Sunday, March 9, 2014
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Trent Wilson and his daughters, 10 year old Olivia and 14 year old Bianca, all of Colonie, take a moment before hitting the ice for the final day of the Empire State Plaza ice skating rink in Albany on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Trent Wilson and his daughters, 10 year old Olivia and 14 year old Bianca, all of Colonie, take a moment before hitting the ice for the final day of the Empire State Plaza ice skating rink in Albany on Sunday, March 9, 2014.

— Henry Reize had a dream of gliding quickly across the ice.

At the age of 3, the Albany boy had been skating only once before in his life, several weeks ago. The experience left an impression on him that percolated in his subconscious and prompted the youngster to prod his parents into bringing him to the skating rink at the Empire State Plaza for a few spins.

“I want to be a fast speedy skater,” he proclaimed after a solid 45 minutes of skating, rarely falling in the sun-softened ice.

Tom Reize, the boy’s father, knew of the plaza’s rink because he works nearby. But many years passed since he was last on skates, and he never thought to give the state-run ice a try.

“It took his encouragement to get over the fear of being on blades,” he quipped.

The result was a great family outing on a sunny-but-brisk afternoon at the Capitol. The only disappointing part about the outing was knowing the plaza’s rink would be closing for the season by nightfall.

“I’m kind of sad about that,” he said, as the family packed it in for the day.

The state Office of General Services concluded another successful year of operating the ice rink at the plaza Sunday, despite weather that has been less than predictable this winter. The rink saw more than 12,500 visitors and made about 10,300 rentals, even though there were days where temperatures simply didn’t cooperate.

The opening of the rink was initially delayed because of rain and warm weather. But then came the bite of old man winter in December and early January, where temperatures struggled to reach single digits.

That made the plaza — known for its whipping wind — a rather uninviting place for anything outside of necessary travel. And it also shuttered the rink on several occasions because of low temperatures and snow.

Then a pair of midwinter thaws left workers struggling to maintain the ice. A weekend thaw in February where temperatures neared 50 degrees prompted OGS to shut the rink down temporarily for a weekend.

The spotty weather, however, didn’t deter a full slate of activities that kept the rink bustling throughout the roughly three-month season. From a marriage proposal last month to performances from a pair of United States figure-skating Olympians, there was never a shortage of activities at the rink, said OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito.

“Though we’re all looking forward to the return of warmer weather, we are going to miss seeing all the skaters, young and old, enjoying themselves on the Plaza ice rink,” she said in a statement.

Even during its last day this season, the rink was still drawing first-time visitors. Ben Friedman of Clifton Park decided to bring his girlfriend, April Ross, down to the rink for her first time skating in the plaza.

“I’ve never been here before,” the Burnt Hills woman beamed as she stared up at the towering marble buildings surrounding the plaza.

Others used the plaza as a way to get back on the ice after spending a long time away from skating. Tim Wildes of Schenectady was suffering from a pair of smarting feet after joining his 6-year-old son, Ben, and wife, Marie, for a few spins around the plaza rink.

Wildes, a big fan of Union College’s men’s ice hockey team, landed tickets to the Dutchmen’s postseason game this week and figured it would be good to get back out on skates after not skating for more than 30 years. The result was a bolstered respect for Union’s team.

“I have a new appreciation for these guys,” he said.

 
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