Ice skaters inspired by watching athletes on television competing in Winter Olympic events should be able to try out an Olympic-size ice-skating rink beginning Saturday without traveling to France.
The Tampa Bay Skating Academy, the third and largest rink in Pinellas County, opens Saturday. It is 200 feet by 85 feet. An inch and a half of ice is maintained on the floor by 10 miles of pipe underneath connected to a state-of-the-art refrigeration system.
"We are very conservation minded," said interim manager Bert Blanchette. "Even our refrigeration equipment is the most efficient system on the market. It doesn't use as much electricity as a conventional system."
The rink has been ready for about two weeks, but only members of the Tampa Bay Skating Club have been using it. During hours when the rink is not open to the public, it will be used by skating and hockey clubs and for private parties.
Owners of the rink are planning a complex that will include two Olympic rinks, a dance studio, weight rooms, locker rooms, a concession stand and a viewing area. Owners are negotiating with Tampa Bay Lightning owners for the National Hockey League team to use the Oldsmar rink for practice sessions.
In addition, Hockey North America, an amateur league for adults, will sponsor a team at the rink.
The Tampa Bay Skating Academy on Forest Lakes Boulevard just north of Tampa Road will open for the first time from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday with free admission for that day only. Regular hours are from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesdays for adults only and open to the public from 7:45 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Call 854-4009.