After months of preparation, Turlock's first ice skating rink is just days away from its Black Friday opening.
On Tuesday evening, a small group of donors and local dignitaries were the first to experience the Fields of Ice skating rink, located at 716 N. Daubenberger Rd.
“I can't tell you just how excited I am,” Fields of Ice Owner Ron Macedo said before the small crowd. “… It's just such a wonderful day here.”
Turlock City Councilmembers, Stanislaus County Supervisors, Turlock Irrigation District Directors, and members of the Stanislaus County Fair Board were all on hand for the event.
But despite all the dignitaries, one of the first – and best – skaters on the Fields of Ice rink was Kellen Ireland. That skating skill comes with experience – though he lives in Turlock, Ireland is a hockey player for the 16-and-under San Jose Junior Sharks. Ireland actually missed practice Tuesday night, skipping the drive to San Jose to skate on Turlock's first ice rink.
“It's awesome,” Ireland said. “This is pretty big for Turlock.”
The 60-foot by 80-foot temporary ice rink was packed with children, many of them skating for what appeared to be their first time. It's scenes like that, Fields of Ice supporter and local veterinarian Rob Santos said, that make supporting the rink worthwhile.
“It seems like a great community event,” Santos said. “It looks like the kids are having a great time. We need something like this in Turlock.”
Also having a great time was Turlock Mayor John Lazar, who was pulled around the ring by Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa and Mike Ireland, of Winton-Ireland Strom and Green Insurance.
“This is the first time I've ever ice skated, after 55 years,” Lazar said.
And the ice rink isn't swept with one of those tiny, tractor-pulled Zambonis. Renting a real, massive, Zamboni was the only way to provide a quality ice surface, Macedo said.
“We want to do everything first-class, and I think we accomplished that,” Macedo said.
The idea to build a temporary ice skating rink at R.A.M. Farms, which hosts a fall-time pumpkin patch and corn maze at its location, first became public in June when planning permits were filed. Those permits were approved in August, clearing the way for the ice skating rink to open the Friday after Thanksgiving.
“When I first told (my mother) I was going to do it, she said, 'You're crazy,'” Macedo said. “I said, 'You're right, I am.'”
If this year's run is successful, Macedo said he hopes to expand the rink next year. The rink could grow another 40 feet, adding a tent to allow skating even in inclement weather.
“We really, really hope that the community supports us the rest of the way,” Macedo said.
Macedo noted that the rink will be supporting the community throughout its six-week run, creating a number of jobs and pumping money into the local economy as skaters visit the rink from nearby communities.
Fields of Ice will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, from Friday through Jan. 12 or 19. However, due to the outdoor nature of the rink, skating sessions will not be held on rainy days.
Ice skating costs $8 during the day and $10 at night during weekdays, rising $2 on weekends. The cost includes skate rentals.
As many as 100 skaters at a time will take to the ice, with sessions scheduled to start every two hours.
And, despite a tragic theft, food and drinks will still be offered at Fields of Ice. Unknown thieves stole the Macedos' food service trailers on Nov. 7, and the vehicle turned up stripped behind an abandoned home southwest of Turlock last week. However, a new food truck has been rented for the duration of the Fields of Ice run.