Despite the suspension of recreational sports in Vermont, local ice rink facilities are being out to host private lessons.
At the Nelson Withington Skating Facility, people are able to book time for private skating with members of their own household. There are a handful of COVID restrictions, but it allows the rink to remain open, even as rec sports in the state have been postponed until further notice.
There will also be public skate times and stick time on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
All reservation must be made 24 hours in advance to allow staff to prepare for each reservation. Participants must sign up online.
The state of Vermont has also allowed Riley Rink to reopen for private instruction, determining that the rink will be able to follow the state’s COVID-19 safety guidelines.
The rink was forced to close Saturday after Gov. Phil Scott announced on Friday the suspension of all recreational sports programs throughout the state to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Riley Rink opened its doors for the season on Oct. 25. The rink had been closed due to the pandemic since March 15.
“We emailed the Department of Health and basically asked if the state would reconsider their orders, specifically to Riley Rink,” said Marek Kovac, president of the board of directors at Northshire Civic Center, which operates Riley Rink and Hunter Park. “We have several programs that we are able to follow the guidelines from the ACCD (Agency of Commerce and Community Development).”
Kovac emailed Julie Moore at the Vermont Department of Health. Kovac received an email from the Department of Health on Sunday, allowing the rink to reopen.
“She said that since we’re going to be offering private lessons, and if we can continue to provide the users of the rink the ability to follow the guidelines, we can stay open,” Kovac said.
Those guidelines include contact tracing, a COVID-19 questionnaire, a temperature check and lots of signage throughout the rink directing visitors how to maneuver through the rink safely.
Riley Rink is also making adjustments to the ice to ensure safety.
“The rink is going to be physically divided into two sections so there is a physical barrier,” Kovac said.
Kovac said he brought his two children to the rink on Sunday for an hour-long private skating session. With another family on the other side of the ice, the two groups never crossed paths.
“We had three other people on the other sheet, and we never met during our one-hour skating session,” Kovac said. “It worked out just fine, and that’s what we need to make sure, that we’re going to be able to maintain the 6-foot distance.”
Riley Rink and its private programs will be operating under section 8.1 of the Be Smart, Stay Safe Order which includes “close contact businesses” such as gyms, fitness centers, spas and nail salons.
Learn to skate, which pairs newcomers to ice skating with a certified trainer, is currently being offered Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at Riley Rink.
The stick & puck program allows “players of all ages/skill levels the chance to practice their skills without the pressure of competition” according to Rileyrink.com.
The rink is also renting out the ice for private sessions. Each hour-long private session costs $99. In years past, these sessions cost $275.
Recreational ice hockey is currently not allowed in Vermont.
Riley Rink is the home to Burr and Burton. Winter high school sports are allowed to begin practicing Nov. 30. Kovac said they are working with BBA to figure out a schedule.
Kovac said that the rink almost never opened.
“We were contemplating not opening this season,” Kovac said.
They ultimately decided to open their doors and the board of directors at Northshire Civic Center are happy to be back in business.
“We are grateful to our Riley Rink family for taking this journey with us. We are strengthened by the support of this amazing community. See you on the ice, but no closer than 6 feet,” a post from Rileyrink.com reads.
To sign up for either the learn to skate or stick & puck program, visit Rileyrink.com.