I was down in the St. Petersburg, Florida area two weekends ago for a boat race. As was the case last year I took my skates along for the ride. Last year I got up early and dropped in on an early morning free style session. This year before going south I searched the arena's web site in vain for that same FS session. It was missing in action. I did note a couple of public sessions, one of which was scheduled from 8:30 to 10:00 pm on Friday.
Now maybe last year I wasn't fully awake but this year the arena seemed a little down on it's heels. The interior walls badly needed a fresh coat of paint and perhaps that's in the works. Outside I noticed that the signage was little different and the exterior of the building was undergoing a major revamping. One had to enter the arena via a side door which took one into the rink proper rather than the lobby. Since I'd been there before I remembered how to get from the rink to the lobby in order to buy my ice pass. That was a good thing because signs directing patrons to the lobby were small and easy to miss.
Once out on the ice most of the above didn't matter. Ice is ice. The typical Friday nite date crowd that can be found at any ice arena was out in force. Basically there were the hockey kids whizzing around, a coach and several mid-level free stylers practicing in the center circle, teenagers skating in groups and/or stopping in the middle of traffic without any rhyme or reason.
I got in a bit of useful practice which was a good thing in as much as I was missing both a lesson and a power stroking session back home. The other thing I noticed was that the rink seemed smaller than I remembered from last year--I really must have been asleep on my skates then!
Will I pack my skates when I return next year? Probably. The construction will probably be completed by then and hopefully the arena won't seem so drab. I wonder if this rink has changed hands or perhaps management since last year. Can any reader comment on this?
One positive difference between this year and the previous one was that upon my return to home ice I didn't break any bones! The more I skate other venues, the more I come to value my home rink.