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Ice rinks not so hard to find

If that ever-so-slight drop in the humidity _ the first hint of a Florida fall _ has spawned nostalgic dreams of Northern winters and frozen ponds, take note: This is a good time to hit the ice.

Ice rinks that were packed all summer with vacationing children are nearly deserted now that school is in session.

"If you're an adult and you're considering skating, this is your chance. It's practically private ice," said Rick Herbert, daytime supervisor at Tampa Bay Skating Academy's Pinellas ParkSide Mall location.

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Amateur hockey leagues also are gearing up for the season. Most rinks offer programs for all ages.

"We've got hockey from the old-timers' club down to Mighty Mites," said Kay McNeil of Clearwater's Sunblades.

Feel like something new?

The nearly 20-year-old ice rink at Countryside Mall in Clearwater is about to reopen after a complete overhaul. The reconstructed ice surface, pro shop, office and party room are expected to be ready by Sept. 23.

Here's where to skate in the Tampa Bay area (Open skating times vary):

Ice Sports Forum, 10222 Elizabeth Place, Brandon. (813) 684-7825 or Practice ice facility for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Two rinks, hockey leagues, lessons, open skating, birthday parties. Admission: $5.50-$7 per session. Skate rental: $3.

J.P. Igloo, 5309 29th St E, Ellenton (Interstate 75, exit 43, adjacent to Prime Outlet Mall). (941) 723-3663 or Two National Hockey League-size rinks, hockey lessons and leagues, figure skating, ice dancing and pairs skating lessons, open skating, birthday parties. Admission: $5.50. Skate rental: $2.

Sun Blades Ice Skating Center, 13940 Icot Blvd., Clearwater, (727) 536-5843 or Hockey leagues and lessons, figure skating lessons, birthday parties, open skating daily. Admission: $3.75-$5.50. Skate rental: $2.

Tampa Bay Skating Academy, Countryside Mall, 27001 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater. (727) 723-7785 or Rink in center of mall will offer hockey, daily open skating, birthday parties and lessons. Call for prices.

Tampa Bay Skating Academy, 251 Lakeview Drive, Oldsmar. (813) 854-4010 or Two rinks. Hockey, skating instruction, birthday parties, daily open skating. Admission: $5.50-$6.50. Skate rental: $3.

Tampa Bay Skating Academy, Pinellas ParkSide Mall, 7200 U.S. 19 N, Pinellas Park. (727) 527-2276 or One rink in middle of mall. Hockey, figure skating and ice dancing lessons, daily open skating, birthday parties. Admission: $4.50-$5.50. Skate rental: $1-$2.