Downtown ice rink brings ‘something unique to community’

Dec. 28, 2013 @ 05:13 PM

Children gripped their parents’ hands while skating slowly Saturday morning at The Ice Factory at American Tobacco, an outdoor skating rink, while a group of friends circled the rink perimeter using the wall as support.

This is the first year the covered, outdoor ice skating rink has been open at American Tobacco, the mixed-use development of former tobacco buildings that now includes offices, shops and restaurants. The rink is managed by the YMCA of the Triangle, and was launched by American Tobacco with the Carolina Hurricanes as the title sponsor.

“As you can imagine, it’s the first year, so people are just discovering it,” said Jesica Averhart, director of community partnerships for American Tobacco. “We’re very pleased with our attendance. It’s increasing week over week.”

Attendance has averaged around 900 to 1,000 people a week, Averhart said, adding that they hope to draw between 10,000 and 15,000 in total for the season. The rink opened in mid-November and will stay open through Jan. 20. The cost is $10 a person per session.

A Florida- based company converted the outdoor basketball court, known as “The Cage” at American Tobacco, into the rink, she said. She said organizers believe ice skating will become a holiday tradition here.

“It’s about bringing something unique to the community and allowing people to get together during the holidays and create some memories,” she said.

Sisters Erim Akpan, Kulpana Akpan and Samira Akpan were waiting outside the rink before it opened at 11 a.m. Saturday. Erim said she really wanted to go skating, so her sisters and some of their friends went along for the ride.

It had been a “really, really long time” since Kulpana had been skating, she said.

“It’s close and a good location,” she said, explaining why they chose to come to the outdoor rink in downtown Durham.

Durham residents Benjamin and Jenn Sherman took their 3-year-old son Noah to the rink on Saturday for a play date. Jenn Sherman said this was Noah’s second time skating at the rink and third time skating overall.

“We can tell he’s very excited,” she said. “I’m trying to keep them both upright.”

Durham resident Lauren Frye brought her husband Dolan’s parents, Julie and Richard Frye, visiting from Greenville, S.C., along with Dolan and their 2-year-old son Charlie.

She said they wanted to show off Durham, and her mother-in-law was excited to try the skating.

“I just wanted to make it around the rink one time without falling,” Julie Frye said, before skating around the rink with Dolan,.