Sisters Sophia and Ava Perez spun in circles, dancing across the ice as their parents, Jorge and Melissa, watched from the sidelines.
“Daddy, Daddy,” yelled Ava, 8. “Look at me.”
On Sunday, the Fort Worth family bundled in heavy coats, hats and scarves, laced up ice skates and took a spin at Panther Island Ice, Fort Worth’s first outdoor ice skating rink. Well, not the entire family.
“Oh, no. Not me,” laughed their mother. “Not today. I’m just watching.”
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Since it opened in November, Panther Ice has logged thousands of visitors, with roughly 500 to 600 people skating every weekend. Thanksgiving weekend, some 2,000 skaters filled the rink.
Novice skaters and native Texans have flocked to the rink, manager John Eriksen said.
“They start out a little shaky,” he said. “But after 15 minutes, they figure it out and are zipping around with no problem.”
Texas weather, with its swings in temperature, presents some challenges for outdoor rinks, Eriksen said. To keep the ice cool enough — usually around 22 degrees — a 150-ton chiller runs 24 hours a day. Panther Ice is one of only six outdoor rinks in the state.
Matt Oliver, spokesman for the Trinity River Vision Authority, which is running Panther Ice, said the rink is attracting families, couples on dates and groups of friends, many of whom are looking to add a new holiday tradition.
Panther Ice is next to the Coyote Drive-In, Oliver said, and some are catching a flick after skating.
“This is a great family-friendly activity, and it’s something a little different in Texas,” Oliver said, adding that the rink is bringing people to the Trinity River area in the off-season.
Gliding around the rink with three friends, Erika Bronstad, a freshman at TCU, said this was her first time to ice skate outdoors.
“We wanted to do something to get into the Christmas spirit,” Bronstad said. “It’s cold, there’s Christmas music and hot chocolate. This is perfect.”
Christine Hedary, attending a birthday party for her 8-year-old niece, Olivia, laced up her skates, then slowly entered the rink, gripping the side with both hands.
“I haven’t ice skated in 20 years,” said Hedary, of Fort Worth. “Wish me luck.”