Warm sun, sandy beaches, surfing and tan lines. These are things that come to mind when thinking about Florida. I’m a Canuck (aka Canadian) and I spent my childhood growing up in icy cold Canadian winters. My objective has always been to get indoors and warm up as soon as possible and avoid anything involving snow and ice.
If you’ve driven southbound on I-95 chances are you’ve seen the Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex billboard by the Emerson St. exit. Living in a place where I’ll never have to worry about shoveling a car out of snow, or driving over black ice, this billboard always stands out to me as counterintuitive. Ice skating in Florida?
Having seen the sign on many occasions, I recently found myself wanting to do the opposite of everything I did in my formative years; run from the warm outside to the cold inside in search of what I had always so strongly avoided. I persuaded my Australian wife, who incidentally had lived in Montreal Canada for four years and had not once thought about ice skating (yes, we have a lot in common), to give it a try. She was a great sport and agreed to take the challenge. Katie Kight of Jacksonville Ice got us set up in the 8 week “Learn to Skate” program. Our instructor, Hansel, got us on the ice and started chipping away at our fears. Not an easy task, but lessons are definitely the way to go if you want to build your confidence on the ice.
While bragging of our progress on the ice around town, I quickly realized that quite a few people don’t know this ice and indoor sport mega-plex exists. It’s been around since 1992 and has undergone several changes over the years, including a name change from Skate World to its current moniker. Most recently, Jacksonville Ice opened up both sides of its complex and now you have the cool ice rink, as well as the room-temperature sportsplex on the other side.
If you’re keen to get on the ice, there are a few programs to choose from. There’s the learn to skate program, a figure skating program through the United States Figure Skating Association which is overseen by Vicky Morgan, the newly appointed Director of Skating, as well as several ice hockey programs that are overseen by USA Hockey. They have different levels and age groups for each of those programs so if you’re just starting out, or are a seasoned skater, you can jump in at your current level. There are adult and youth hockey leagues ranging from beginning to semi-pro and pick up hockey as well.
They have public ice skating everyday of the week, which is great if you want to go in for some fun, and is also a great way to give this whole ice skating thing a try. You don’t have skates right? No excuses, they provide skate rentals which are included in some of the programs.
The indoor sportsplex side hosts many different programs. There are leagues including volleyball, soccer and basketball which are organized by JacksonvilleScene.com, and there is even a football kicking program taught by a former NFL Jaguar.
Admission and rentals is $9 to $13, depending on which night you go.
If you’re looking for a place to take the little ones this summer, this is a great place to keep the kids cool in Jacksonville’s sweltering heat while keeping them active. Camp starts June 8 and runs through August 4th. They have quite a few choices from figure skating, ice hockey and indoor sports camps.
Chances are you might have held or have been to a birthday party at Jax Ice. It’s definitely a great alternative for a party. I was surprised to hear Katie say that they host church groups and hold lock-ins and camp outs for corporate team building events. They have a few packages to choose from at a few different price levels. For more information visit jaxiceandsportsplex.com