WESLEY CHAPEL — The sun beat down and the temperature neared 80 degrees as Lori Simon, 37, watched her children push their ice skates across the plastic rink set up at the Shops at Wiregrass.
The Connecticut native has done the real thing: skating on a frozen lake, bundled up in scarfs and coats, trying to avoid falling on the wet ice.
Now a New Tampa mother of five, she was content with the plastic placeholder.
"You know they're not going to fall through and drown," she said with a laugh. And after a few tumbles, she said, "the kids aren't wet and crying, either."
The rink was set up a few weeks ago by Synthetic Ice Events, an Odessa company founded by John Tucker and Mike Pivonka, two former professional hockey players.
They discovered the Super-Glide "ice product" while looking for ways to get their children, who play hockey, more ice time.
"We looked at a lot of options," said Tucker, who used to play for the Tampa Bay Lightning. "Being former players, we have skated on a lot of surfaces."
They started their company about a year ago and have mainly worked events like fall festivals and birthday parties. They plan to keep their rink up at the mall through early January.
The surface is composed of interlocking squares, which they've switched in and out for use at other events. At its largest, the mall rink will be 28 by 100 feet.
Tucker said the plastic surface is easier to learn to ice skate on than the frozen water counterpart.
Moving around on the synthetic surface requires a little more push on the skater's part.
"If you get a good technique on this, it's easier on the ice," he said.
Lori Simon, who hasn't ice skated in 15 years, took a few spins around the rink and said it reminded her of roller skating on old-school skates (before the invention of inlines). The surface was more resistant than actual ice.
"You have to get used to it," she said.
Her son, Zackary, 10, who has never ice skated, said it was like roller blading, except "your feet don't vibrate as much."
After an hour, her kids weren't ready to leave the rink, but Simon promised they would return.
She home schools her children, so they would have plenty of time to skate during the week when the rink was less crowded.
"It's good PE," she said.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.