Napa’s seasonal skating rink opened this weekend with skaters of all ages strapping on new boots and hitting the new ice.
On Friday, about 220 skaters inaugurated Napa On Ice’s third season. On Saturday, more skaters, including dozens of teenagers, returned to the rink at Second and Coombs streets.
Among those teens was Edgar Patino, 16, of American Canyon, who came with his sister, Jenny, and a volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the youth mentoring program.
“It’s something different,” Edgar said as he put on his skates, noting it does not snow much in Napa. “We love it. It’s really fun,” added Kim Woodhall, his Big Sister mentor.
Margie Vigil, who came with teen daughter Gillian and friends, said she buys tickets in bulk every year. “And it’s still never enough,” said Vigil, as she and her friend Barbara Henry watched their children skate.
Like some other parents, she wishes for a year-round skating rink, saying there are no kids’ activities in Napa.
Her daughter has become a great skater in two years, she said. Gillian said she planned to stay at the rink until 10 p.m.
“I like it very much,” said Gillian, 13. “It’s a once-a-year special thing.”
Julie Heikell also brings her daughter to the rink every year. “I wish they had something like this full time for the kids to do,” Heikell said as 8-year-old Chloe skated. “There is not much for kids to do in Napa.”
Faraj Aalaei and his daughter were at the rink for the first time.
His family traveled from Atherton to Napa this weekend for the Napa Valley Film Festival, hoping for a family weekend, he said. “We looked around last night on the Web for things that kids could do here. There wasn’t a lot,” he said.
The family still came, hoping to find something for 8-year-old Dena to do. That’s when they found the rink by chance.
“We were walking downtown and saw the ice skating. Her eyes lit up,” Aalaei said, as he watched Dena.
While Aalaei’s wife went to the festival, Dena and her father headed for the rink, where Dena had a private skating lesson before staying on for the afternoon.
“It’s great to have this downtown,” Aalaei said. “It lets you have a family time. Napa is so centered around adults. We love it. But it’s good to have a place for kids.”
Alex Chen, a businessman from Taiwan, also stopped by the rink for the first time. Unlike many of the adults at the rink, Chen rented a pair of skates for himself. “I just want to try,” he said.
Peter Mott, a Napa city councilman and Napa On Ice founder, said Saturday the skating surface is 6,300 square feet, the same as last year.
The new supplier, Special Ice of Livermore, built new dasher boards, offered 350 pairs of new figure skating and hockey skates and a Zamboni ice resurfacing machine, he said. The Zamboni replaces a golf cart equipped with a blade on the bottom, which Mott said did not work as well.
Mott hopes for a dry season. About 10,000 skaters came — 5,000 fewer than in 2011. “We had such a hard year last year,” Mott said, referring to the rains that kept skaters away in 2012. “But the weather this year looks like it is going to be kind to us.”
The rink is for the community, he has said many times. “We want local kids. That’s what it’s really for,” said Mott, shortly after the rink opened for the day.
Mott, who has taken time off from his regular job to help build the rink over the past two weeks, plans to return to his regular job soon. He also has to attend a City Council meeting Tuesday, he noted. His wife, Nancy, will remain more involved in the day-to-day operations of the rink as Napa On Ice’s coordinator. Napa On Ice employs 18 part-time employees, she said.
This year’s budget is about $220,000, Peter Mott said. To break even, Napa On Ice counts on about 12,000 skaters over the next 60 days. Friday and Saturday evenings are the busiest times, Mott said.
A sister rink, Marin On Ice, opened Nov. 9 in San Rafael.