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What are Skating Rinks?

Paulla Estes
Updated May 23, 2024
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Skating rinks are buildings or outdoor areas in which a flat, smooth, horizontal surface has been created and maintained for the purpose of ice skating or roller skating. Outdoors, ice rinks are created when bodies of water, either natural or man-made, freeze solid enough to support skaters. Indoor ice rinks have an area, usually oval-shaped, set apart, refrigerated, and covered with thin sheets of water that turn to smooth ice when applied. In contrast, roller skating rinks are designed with a smooth, hard, dry surface which accommodates the rubber wheels of roller skates. Outdoor roller skating areas might be anything from a sidewalk to a porch or a parking lot.

Ice skating rinks were originally known simply as the local river, pond, or lake on which people took to ice skating. The natural ice skating rinks began as necessities for inhabitants of Russia, Northern Europe, and the Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden. Over the years, beginning as early as the ninth century, skates were invented and perfected, first using stone, then wood, and ultimately, steel. In the early 19th century, steel skates were strapped to one's shoes or boots and people took to skating through town on frozen canals and rivers.

In the 1860s, figure skating was born when a few ambitious ice skaters combined skating with music. By the 1880s, ice skating became a racing sport as Scandinavians sought diversion to pass the long winter months. Indoor refrigerated ice skating rinks were introduced in 1912, and before long, indoor rinks were being designed and perfected in other areas. Today, thanks to refrigeration, indoor ice rinks can be found even in the hottest climates.

In contrast, roller skating rinks were born much later. Roller skating began as a copycat of ice skating when wooden spools were first used as wheels in the 18th century. The mid 19th century found German bar maids serving customers on roller skates, and in 1902, the Chicago Coliseum opened its doors as the first indoor roller skating facility. In the 1970s, when roller skating met disco, thousands of roller skating rinks sprang up around the world.

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Paulla Estes
By Paulla Estes , Writer
Based in Maine, Paulla Estes is a freelance writer and website editor with a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University. With over 15 years of experience in the field, Paulla appreciates the flexibility and consistency that comes with contributing to Sports n' Hobbies. She relishes the opportunity to continuously learn new things while crafting informative and engaging articles for readers.

Discussion Comments

By lighth0se33 — On Jul 18, 2012

It's interesting that skating rinks really picked up speed in the '70s with disco. I was born in the late '70s, so I can't really remember this, but I do recall seeing a lot of people in roller skates on television decked out in disco gear.

It's kind of a theme for that era. I've even seen some newer music videos made to look like they are set in a 1970s skating rink. The girls have long, straight hair and the guys are wearing bellbottoms.

I'm not a fan of disco, but if that is what it took to make roller skating rinks pop up all over in this country, I am glad for it. I love going to a roller skating rink, and so do my kids. It's great exercise, because it is fun, and you are much more likely to work out if you know that you will enjoy yourself while doing it.

By StarJo — On Jul 17, 2012

@cloudel – You might be surprised at just how slippery a wooden rink can be. It has to be kept smooth, and your wheels glide so easily across it that you can lose control if you so much as roll over a bead from a broken necklace. That happened to me once.

A girl had fallen and broken her necklace, and the beads had scattered everywhere. The manager of the rink thought that she had gotten them all up, but they blended in with the wood, and I rolled over one and fell flat on my bottom. I had a bruised tailbone for days!

I've also been to inline skating rinks that had floors as hard as concrete. They looked too smooth to be made of concrete, but they might have been coated with something to keep them easy to skate across.

By cloudel — On Jul 17, 2012

I prefer skating rinks with wooden floors to skating rinks with ice. It seems to me that ice skating is much more dangerous than roller skating.

For one think, with ice skating, you have a sharp metal blade attached to the bottom of your foot. That just sounds like a bloody accident waiting to happen! Even if it wouldn't go through the skate to your foot, you could always trip over someone else who had fallen and land on their blades.

Also, ice is more slippery than wood. It's literally freezing cold, too, and it is just unpleasant to be around.

By OeKc05 — On Jul 16, 2012

@donasmrs – The old roller skating rink in my town used to open up on Saturday afternoons for a couple of hours. Almost no one would be there at this time, so it was my favorite time to go skating.

I know how you feel about crowded rink skating. It is dangerous, as well as nerve-wracking. I much prefer a rink with only one or two other people on the floor.

I got to practice my backward skating on these Saturday afternoons. This is something that I was always scared to try for very long on weekend nights, because there were far too many skaters to bump into and fall over.

By LisaLou — On Jul 15, 2012

I think the indoor public skating rinks are a much safer place to ice skate than skating outdoors on your own. My brother and I used to ice skate on a small river that would freeze over.

Even though we never had any problems or any close calls, it would make me nervous if my kids were outside ice skating on a river or pond. I would worry that the ice would be too thin and they would fall in.

If you go to a public skating rink, you don't have to worry about this. There is still a chance that someone might get hurt, but you don't have to worry about them falling in the ice and not being able to get back out.

By sunshined — On Jul 15, 2012

I had the chance to visit the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado where they have an ice skating rink for Olympic athletes.

This was even bigger than what I imagined it would be. I was hoping when we were there that I would get to see some of the athletes training, but there wasn't anybody on the rink at all.

I don't know if this is ever open to the public for skating or not. I doubt it, but it would be pretty cool to say you had skated on the same rink where someone who won an Olympic medal in figure skating had also skated.

By andee — On Jul 14, 2012

@julies - You must have grown up in the same era I did, as roller skating was very popular. I know some kids still go to roller skating rinks today, but many of them around my area have closed down. It doesn't seem to have nearly the appeal for kids as it used to.

Not only did I go to indoor rinks as often as I could, but we also had an outdoor skating rink open in the summer.

I really looked forward to the evenings when the outdoor rink was open. They had music playing and served refreshments, and people from several small towns around the area would come and skate.

Those were great memories I had growing up, but my kids have only been roller skating a few times. When they think about getting together with their friends and hanging out, going to a roller skating rink isn't very high up on the list.

By julies — On Jul 14, 2012

I spent many hours growing up at roller skating rinks. This used to be where I met up with my friends and where I did most of my socializing.

It was also a great place to meet new friends and meet some guys who were not from my school. On Friday and Saturday nights our local skating rink had late night skates. They also had special occasions throughout the year where the rink would be open until 2:00 am.

Sometimes I think there was more talking and eating done than skating, but it was always a good time. I got to the point where I felt pretty confident on my skates and could skate backward and get down pretty low for the limbo.

By ZipLine — On Jul 13, 2012

@burcidi-- The town or city authorities wouldn't let people skate on frozen ponds and lakes if they weren't sure that it's safe. So you don't need to be afraid of skating on outdoor local ice skating rinks.

But it's also true that indoor skating rinks have a lot of advantages. Indoor skating rinks are made using special machinery and a mixture of chemicals and tap water. Each layer is made very thin which makes it much easier to skate on and prevents the top layer from melting and becoming watery. The temperature and humidity inside the skating rink is controlled to maintain a perfect ice rink.

Outdoor, natural skating rinks are more prone to becoming watery on top because it's usually a single block of ice. Of course these are usually cleaned up with machinery too, but it's never going to be as perfect as an indoor skating rink.

By burcidi — On Jul 13, 2012

@donasmrs-- That sounds like it was a lot fun. Did the skating rink have a DJ too? Usually they will have a DJ for special events and people can ask for songs.

What do you guys think about indoor vs outdoor ice skating rinks?

I'm scared of outdoor skating rinks that are just a naturally frozen body of water. Even though I see people skating on it just fine, I can't get over the feeling that the ice is going to break through and I'm going to fall into icy cold water. I think I developed this fear after watching movies where people walk over frozen water and fall into it when the ice cracks.

My family enjoys ice skating in winter and they have tried very hard to convince me to skate on frozen lakes and ponds before. I just can't get myself to do it. I only feel safe at indoor skating rinks where I know that there is nothing under the ice and that it can't break.

By donasmrs — On Jul 12, 2012

I just had my birthday at a roller skating rink and it was great! We had the whole rink reserved for me and my friends. The kids at my school are really into roller skating and most know how to skate so I think this was the best idea for a birthday party.

The skating rink we went to is actually pretty small, so it didn't cost too much to reserve it for a few hours. I also dislike crowded skating rinks which is usually the case when it's not reserved for a private party. It becomes impossible to skate without running into someone. And some people are learning to skate for the first time, and I think they also get intimidated by the professionals who skate way too fast.

Paulla Estes

Paulla Estes


Based in Maine, Paulla Estes is a freelance writer and website editor with a B.A. in English Literature from George...
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