Figure skaters, hockey players, curlers and regular slip-and-slide ice skating buffs will have a brand new three-rink facility on Saturday, when Montgomery County's new $7.2 million Cabin John Ice Rink officially opens.
But even before the first blade hits the ice, some of those groups are already bumping heads, as tensions simmer over the way time on the ice has been allocated at the county-run facility.
The main complaint is coming from figure skaters and their parents, who have looked at the tentative schedule and say they have lost ice time to the hockey teams and open-session skaters.
"I just think it's not fair. It was the freestyle skaters who lobbied for a new rink and now they're getting cut out," said Sharon Horn, of Bethesda, whose 9-year-old daughter is a figure skater.
County officials say they're just trying to juggle the competing needs of the growing number of residents who have taken up skating sports and have been clamoring for additional facilities.
"The problem is these various groups all tend to desire the same times--it's very difficult," said Montgomery County Parks Director Don Cochran.
Cochran got involved in the scheduling after County Council member Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large) passed along complaints his office had received about the issue.
"We looked at the schedule and it did seem a little out of whack to us," said Suzanne Langevin, a policy analyst for Silverman.
Continued strong interest in figure skating and the growth of hockey leagues and school-based hockey play have coincided to make the situation particularly acute, Cochran said.
"We are going to have a public process and involve all the various interest groups and come up with an ice time policy that we will put in place next season," Cochran said.
The county may have its hands full bringing together the various skating groups, who have a tradition of being at odds.
"The figure skaters always complain that the hockey teams chop up the ice and the hockey people say figure skaters wreck the ice," Horn said.
Another county-owned ice rink in Wheaton also is undergoing a major upgrade and will help to fill some of the skating need, said Carolyn D. Wainright, community services supervisor for the county Department of Park and Planning.
The Cabin John skating rink, on Westlake Drive in Rockville, was built on the site of the old 30-year-old facility, which was closed in March and demolished.
The new facility will have three sheets of ice--an Olympic size rink, an NHL size hockey rink and a smaller figure skating studio. The facility also will have a pro shop, team changing rooms, party and meeting rooms and bleacher seating.
The Olympic rink is still under construction, as is the expanded parking area, with an entrance off Westlake Drive. The facility is expected to be complete in January.
Saturday's grand opening had originally been planned a week earlier, but it was rescheduled because of construction delays.
General skating sessions on the opening day are scheduled from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The fall/winter schedule of sessions and classes can be obtained by calling 301-365-2246. The rink will be open daily, including Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.