Tucked away in the heart of Belfield's main drag, next to a garden of snow-draped memorials, lies an almost hidden treasure-an ice rink...without ice.
It's not sorcery. It's synthetic.
"You can use this any time of year, you can bring it out in summertime," Amber Koehler, vice president of the Belfield Parks and Recreation Department, said as she showed off the ice rink and it's jigsaw-puzzle synthetic "ice" sheets. "It's more versatile, (safer)."
Wearing flat shoes or boots, the smooth plastic surface isn't slick at all (one can safely walk across the ice) but bladed ice skates-and the application of a slickening glaze-turn floor to frozen rink.
"It was a lot of work to get this down," Koehler said. "After we got everything put together ... it was awesome. It was so great to have it, the kids love it, my kids love it, with it not being so slick, little kids, we have two-blade skates so ... my 2-year-old can go on and he just kind of walks around but he still feels like he's skating."
The ice rink provides plenty of space for skating, as well as a general hub for community activity. Though attendance has been stymied by the recent extreme cold, Koehler said this location had already been used for community events prior to making it into an ice rink and that role is only enhanced by its presence.
"It's basically a community place, anybody can come, you can have a family gathering, we had a farmer's market for the first time this summer here," Koehler said. "Wednesday night meals we have every Wednesday. Local schools, local organizations ... get together, they'll take a different Wednesday and do that for fundraising."
The new ice skating rink features concessions during its open hours on the weekends. The rink will be open Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Koehler said that the inspiration for making an ice rink came from an unexpected discovery about an existing part of the town.
"Somebody had brought to our attention that this concrete is actually made to hold ice," She said. "The city auditor, she mentioned maybe looking into synthetic ice."
According to Wikipedia the use of synthetic ice, which is a polymer material made of a type of plastic, has been a practice in skating-for both hockey and figure skating-since the 1950s. For Belfield, this just means more opportunities for the community to come together. In fact, Belfield's chief of police Stephen Byrne intends to use the space to share his love of hockey.
"Our chief of police here in Belfield, he really likes hockey and he's going to start on Tuesday nights he's going to have a little thing for kids to teach 'em hockey," Koehler said.
Overall, any uncertainty regarding the use of synthetic ice over the real thing seems to have melted away.
"In the long run it's going to be a good thing," Koehler said.