Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

An unusual gift for Christmas — outdoor skating in Tampa


He wore an olive green fleece jacket. She wore a festive red sweater. Off the ice, Jim and Susan Sampson were just another middle-aged couple from Temple Terrace.

On the ice they glided like slow-motion figure skaters, his arm firmly around her waist, feet crisscrossing in unison.

It was a sight rarely seen on Christmas Day in Tampa — outdoor ice skating, courtesy of the city and the Tampa Bay Lightning, who set up the rink.

And yet the Sampsons made it look perfectly natural. "I'm not a skater," Susan said earlier, predicting her husband, a skilled hockey player, would hold her up.

He was just that good.

• • •

The rink at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, open to the public since November, drew a typical crowd on Christmas: children and grandparents, natives and tourists, novices and obvious athletes.

Dressed in every possible fashion, from khaki shorts to glittery designer sweaters and scarves, they paid $10, including skate rental, to try something new or, in many cases, remember what life was like before they came to Florida.

Ron Callahan and his wife, Maureen, used to skate together in Chicago. Now living in Riverview, they wondered how their three teenage daughters would take to it.

"We have all this extra time off, and we're always looking for things to do," Ron Callahan said.

Kaylyn, the oldest and most athletic of the children, moved easily and gracefully. Sisters Karissa and Katie spent a good bit of time hugging the walls.

Callahan stood back and shot video. "I'm too afraid of injury," he said.

He watched as his second-oldest daughter joined Kaylyn in the center of the ring. Katie, 15, continued to hug the wall.

"She's always been a little more fearful," he said.

• • •

Jim Sampson can tell skating stories all day long.

He remembers, as a child in Kalamazoo, Mich., shoveling snow off the lake. He remembers flooding a rink with his dad.

When he started playing organized hockey, his coach could hardly believe how long he could play without a break.

Gazing Saturday across the Hillsborough River at the University of Tampa minarets, he said, "If you passed wrong, the puck would go from here all the way to there, that's how smooth the ice was."

He remembers how his parents would skate together. "They would just flow," he said. "My mother could skate backwards."

His wife left the rink on Saturday with a New Year's resolution of sorts: "I probably should skate more often."

On the other side of the rink, Callahan continued to work his videocamera. He noticed that two of his daughters were skating easily in the center. And that one of them was Katie, the youngest.

He smiled. "Now, that's progress."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 624-2739 or

An unusual gift for Christmas — outdoor skating in Tampa 12/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 25, 2010 8:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs talk social issues, protests at team meeting


    TAMPA — Each time Dirk Koetter walks through the door of his office at One Buc Place, he passes by the only jersey framed on his wall.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) wears custom cleats to represent Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) as part of the NFL???‚??„?s "My Cause, My Cleats Campaign" before the start of a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.
  2. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  3. St. Petersburg man shot in arm during home invasion robbery


    ST. PETERSBURG — One man was arrested on charges he shot another man in the arm while attempting to rob a home in what St. Petersburg police are calling a drug-related incident.

    John Alam, 25, faces charges of home invasion robbery, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon after deputies said he tried to rob a home Wednesday morning and ended up shooting someone. [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Bob Buckhorn, a mayor who knows what he wants, surveys constituents on what they want


    TAMPA — Focus has not been a problem — or really, even a question — during the six-plus years that Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been in office.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn keeps a digital countdown clock in his office showing the days, hours. minutes and seconds until he is term-limited out of office on April 1, 2019. As of Wednesday, he had 584 days to go. [City of Tampa]