Stuart Park ice rink nears end of another season
Kevin Laflamme has seen a lot from his vantage point near the Stuart Park ice rink.
He's watched children who have never before put on skates struggle to learn how to move around on the slippery surface.
He's viewed large crowds gather onto the ice; he's witnessed people glide around by themselves, as if on their own backyard rink.
But the owner of Bladez Skate Shop said his favourite memory from his first year in business next to the outdoor rink came earlier this winter.
A 74-year-old man arrived just as Laflamme was opening his store one morning. The man explained it was his birthday and he hadn't skated in 40 years.
"He rented a pair of skates and skated for about 30 minutes," said Laflamme.
"It was his first time (in 40 years) and he didn't want his wife or anybody to know, so he snuck down here and went on his 74th birthday."
The skate shop owner explained it took the man about six laps to get used to the skates, but before long he was picking up speed. When the man gave the skates back, he told Laflamme the morning skate was exactly what he had envisioned for his birthday.
Kelowna's outdoor ice rink will likely close down for the season within the next few days, depending on the weather.
Martin Johansen, manager of building services with the City of Kelowna, said he's optimistic the rink will stay open through the weekend; however, it could close soon after that.
"The weather seems to be cool enough and we're not getting clear, sunny days. But we're clearly on borrowed time once we get to this time of year," said Johansen.
"I don't think we've made March 1 before."
Although the City doesn't track the number of skaters using the facility, Johansen said he believes the Stuart Park ice rink's fourth season was successful.
One minor hiccup came in January, when warm weather forced the rink to shut down for an afternoon.
"It was odd to have it shut down in January…but it was back up the next day."
There were about a dozen people on the ice around noon Thursday, taking advantage of one of the rink's last days this season.
While taking a break on a Stuart Park bench, Ken, a Kelowna resident, said he tries to get on the ice at least a couple times every week.
"Probably the best thing they ever did in Kelowna is put this here," he said.
"I'm from Edmonton, so we did a lot of pond skating and stuff like that. It sort of brings back memories of skating outside, rather than indoors."
Laflamme said business at his skate rental shop was very strong in December; however, January and February "slowed down quite a bit."
But, since this was Bladez Skate Shop's first year renting skates to users of the outdoor rink, Laflamme said it's hard to measure whether or not it was a good year for business.
He said he received a lot of positive feedback this winter, especially around Christmas time.
"With relatives coming to town and visiting, this is a very economical way to go and spend some time with the family."
Friday is Bladez Skate Shop's last day at the Stuart Park rink this season; Laflamme said the business will be back next year.