The SportsPlex: Where the cool crowd hangs out

07/15/2014 1:27 PM

07/15/2014 1:29 PM

In the ’50s, it might have been a challenge to figure out where the cool people were hanging out, but it usually wasn’t far from Elvis.

In the ’60s, the cool folks were either chillin’ with Dylan in Greenwich Village or dropping names at an Andy Warhol “Happening.”

By the late Seventies, “cool” was found at Studio 54.

Flash forward 35 years. While temperatures bake outside this summer, a few locals in the know are ducking under the velvet ropes and hanging out in perhaps the coolest spot in the Triangle: the year round ice-cold rink at the Orange County SportsPlex, where even the air you breathe is cool: a refreshing 45 degrees, to be exact.

SportsPlex marketing and membership director Mary Catherine McKee said the SportsPlex is one of the area’s best kept summer secrets.

“I’d say that the people who think about it come in,” McKee said. “There are new sets of skaters that occasionally come, but most people don’t think about it during the summer. They think about swimming.”

“The week before Christmas is busy; June and July, not so much,” McKee added. “The rink is relatively empty during the summer. For the general public, there’s plenty of room on the ice.”

“It’s not the same as you’d have like around February (or around the holidays),” said skater Doug Marchuk, who was the first to glide across the smooth ice at a public skating session last Saturday. “It’s definitely refreshing, though. I’ve just too busy to come that often.”

For Brooke Smith and Anna Snyder, both 14, Saturday’s visit was in keeping with tradition.

“It’s because we normally did it when we were in middle school,” said Smith, who added that she also liked it in the winter when the rink is more crowded. “”I’ve been here when there are a lot more people here and it makes it (more fun).”

The 90,000 square foot SportsPlex is one of the state’s largest recreational facilities and one of only a few in the United States offering an ice arena, aquatics center, and a fitness center under one roof.

According to the public skating schedule on the Orange County SportsPlex website, public sessions are offered almost every afternoon, Friday night, and Saturday night.

Adult skating sessions are $6.50, while children 12 and under are $5.50. Skaters must be at least 13 years old to skate without adult supervision. Skate rentals are $3.50, but rental fees are waived during special promotional skating sessions.

“On Tuesday evenings, we have a special summer session with free skate rentals,” McKee said. “It’s a perfect time if parents are working during the days.” A group discount price of $6 per person (including skate rental) is also available to parties of 20 or more people.

Evening sessions provide a great family-friendly atmosphere, with music and even a special neon “disco time.” All the busier public sessions are supervised by a staff of “skate guards,” and added security is on hand on Friday nights.

Skate aids/walkers are available for rent on a first-come, first-serve basis,” the website said.

Kathy Wulff was enjoying the sparse crowd Saturday evening to practice what she’d learned at a lesson earlier in the week.

“I have on my bucket list to go to New York City, so I’m going right before Thanksgiving, and I’m going to skate at Rockefeller Plaza, so I’m taking a few skating lessons,” she said. “I had a lesson on Tuesday, so tonight I’m just here to practice.”

Special Learn to Skate classes run year round for all ages and abilities, and special Summer Learn to Skate classes are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Who needs the air-conditioned living room or the 85-degree pool water when winter awaits year-round at the SportsPlex: it just might be the coolest thing to do all summer.

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