Natalia Rangel couldn’t stop grinning, despite having a wet backside.
“It makes me feel good because it’s more fun than plain-old school,” said Natalia, a third-grader who had just left the skating rink at Panther Island Ice, the latest attraction in the entertainment venue along the Trinity River, which opens today.
One of the few experienced skaters among about 130 Hubbard Heights Elementary students at Thursday’s pre-opening party, Natalia wasn’t as wet as most of her peers. Lines of kids inched along, desperately gripping the rail that borders the large rink.
Delighted screams were common and grins were on all the faces of the children, who were on a field trip like none they’d ever had.
“This is an experience of a lifetime for most of them,” said Natalia’s mom, Sonia Rangel, who’s also a Hubbard Heights teacher. “For most of these kids, the only opportunity to experience something new is on field trips. Typically, we take them to museums, symphony performances, ballet and live plays. This is just for them to have fun and socialize.”
Trinity River Vision Authority granted Hubbard Heights students exclusive access to Fort Worth’s first outdoor ice-skating rink, said Shanna Cate, programming director for the authority.
Watching them from a corner of the rink at the Coyote Drive-In’s pavilion, J.D. Granger, the authority’s executive director, was grinning, too.
“Panther Island is supposed to be a family place, and we’re providing a place where families can play,” Granger said. “This is the first ice-skating rink in Fort Worth since Tandy’s closed.”
Managed by Ice Rink Events, Panther Island Ice is part of a nationwide group of successful outdoor rinks that includes one in Houston, Cate said.
“I talked to 15 other ice rinks across the country before we decided to work with Ice Rink Events,” Cate said. “The company has 36 other operations across the nation.”
None of that mattered to 8-year-old ice-skating veteran Natalia, who first skated two years ago.
“This is really good ice,” she said.