HONOLULU (KHON2) — A popular and important spot for ice skaters remains closed. While plans are in the works to reopen Ice Palace Hawaii, for two years athletes that depended on the ice rink were forced to look for other outlets.
When Hawaii’s only ice skating rink closed due to the pandemic, it left many athletes out in the cold. But Hawaii’s only synchronized ice skating team found a way to continue doing what they love.
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Many ice skaters used to practice at Ice Palace Hawaii several times a week-honing their skills. But in March 2020, COVID-19 changed all that.
Kimberly Martin has been skating for 10 years. She was heartbroken.
“It was devastating,” she said. “This is my favorite thing to do ever and so it was really difficult.”
She and the Tropical Blades synchronized skating team had been rehearsing for a national competition. That too was canceled. Their dream of competing was put on hold.
But their love of skating remained.
“Some of the parents went out and said, ‘hey, my kids want to keep skating.'” Joe Martin, president of Tropical Blades said. “So, one of the parents went out and bought about 200 pieces of this.”
It’s called synthetic or artificial ice made of thick plastic. When they skate across it, it heats up, helping them glide. But it’s not exactly like the real thing according to the team’s head coach Robyn Conboy.
“Very, very difficult for the skaters,” Conboy said. “It’s a lot harder to skate on, you have to really push, especially the little guys.”
Kimberly said it also dulls the skates quicker.
And setting it up is time-consuming.
“It takes 30 minutes to set it up, and 30 minutes to tear it down and its got to go in the back of somebody’s car,” Joe explained.
Not everyone was able to make the switch — about 10 girls left the team. But as challenging as it is, Martin is grateful she can still skate.
“It’s way different but we work with what we have,” said Martin.
After almost two years, the tiles are wearing out so they are raising money to buy a more durable surface.
“This feels a lot like more similar to real ice so I feel like we’ll probably glide a lot better on it which will be really neat,” Kimberly said.
“What we’re trying to do is give the kids a better surface to skate on. Give them a larger surface,” Joe said. “So this is about 675 square feet. We’re looking at something about twice that size.”
It’s also more expensive. It will cost around $20,000.
But Joe said it’s worth it.
“It’s the passion. It’s you know, who’d have thought you’ll be at Mililani fair and you’ll see figure skating,” he explained. “So if you want to help us with that, that would be awesome. “
As for Ice Palace Hawaii, the owner said, he hopes to reopen this summer once renovations are completed.
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To make a donation to Tropical Blades synchronized skate team click here.