Tag Archives: ice skating

Six Places to go Ice Skating in Omaha

November 4, 2019 by

Ice skating is one of the oldest and most popular traditions of the holiday season, and a good option for any cold-weather occasion. Those looking for a cool way to spend time with family and friends, or perhaps a unique way to impress a date, cannot go wrong with skating around the ice. There are a variety of ice skating rinks in the Omaha area, and each have their own flair and style. Some locations offer urban excitement while others offer the peace of nature. Specified people can skate for free in one location. Other locations donate a portion of proceeds to charity. All of them offer a fun time during the holiday season.

*Dates and times may change due to seasonal events, maintenance, or other reasons. Check websites and/or call ahead before heading out.


Capitol District

10th Street and Capitol Avenue
402.345.5401
capitoldistrictomaha.com
Admission: $10 (includes skate rental)

The ice skating rink in the Capitol District pulls double duty as a provider of entertainment and charity. A portion of the proceeds from the ice rink is donated to Food Bank for the Heartland as part of the “Shine the Light on Hunger” campaign. There are also collection bins at the rink for non-perishable food items. Downtown Omaha provides a beautiful backdrop to this outdoor rink, creating a one-of-a-kind experience for those looking to have a good time skating while supporting a charitable cause at the same time.

Grover Ice

6171 Grover St.
402.991.7982
groverice.com
Admission: $4 children (12 and under),
$6 adults (13-55), $5 seniors (56+)
Skate rental: $2

Grover Ice is a privately owned ice rink located in central Omaha. They are open year round and have a little something for everyone. Want to skate uninterrupted for an hour or two? Want to learn how to skate? Need a unique party or event location? Broomball? League hockey? Grover Ice has you covered.

Mahoney State Park

28500 West Park Highway, Ashland
402.944.2523
outdoornebraska.gov/mahoney
Admission: $2 adults, $3 children
Skate rental: $3

The activity center and ice skating pavilion at Mahoney State Park allows for fun and entertainment even in the brutal cold of winter. The unique ice skating rink is technically outside, but is covered by a large roof. A massive indoor playground is connected to the rink and features tubes, slides, net bridges, and more. While Mahoney State Park probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind for winter activities, the ice skating pavilion and activity center are great spots to escape the winter blues.

Motto McLean Ice Arena

5015 S. 45th St.
402.444.4955
parks.cityofomaha.org
Admission: $4 ages 6 and older, free for ages 5 and under with paid adult
Skate rental: $1

Located at Hitchcock Park, Motto McLean Ice Arena has a variety of events. They have a basic public skate as well as family skate on Sundays ($12 for a family of four) and freestyle skate for figure skaters to practice their skills ($7 per hour). They have drop-in hockey games as well as “stick and puck,” where players can simply skate around the ice with a stick and a puck. A fun event for preschoolers is “Bobby skate,” where kids can learn to skate while holding on to Bobby, a plastic seal. Rounding out their wide variety of events, McLean Ice Arena also hosts birthday parties. Schedules for these events can be found online.

Ralston Arena

7300 Q St.
402.934.9966
ralstonarena.com
Admission: $5
Skate rental: $4

Ralston Arena is one of the newest venues in the city of Omaha. Ice skating is open to the public throughout the year, but there is no better time to go than the holiday season. Their drop-in hockey games allow players of all skill levels to experience competitive (but not too serious) games of hockey. The Ralston Skating Academy offers certified lessons to all ages. With a selection of activities and a modern venue, Ralston Arena is a no-brainer location for skating fun. 
 

UNMC Ice Rink

42nd and Emile Streets
402.559.0697
unmc.edu
Admission: $7 general public
Skate rental: Included in admission

Although it is a medical facility, the University of Nebraska Medical Center has an ice skating rink. Skating is free to students and employees of affiliated colleges—UNL, UNMC, UNO, and Clarkson College—as well as Nebraska Medicine, and Ronald McDonald House employees and house guests (must present valid ID badge), making it a cheap day out. This location opens at 11 a.m. for those who want to get some time on the ice before the sun goes down.


This article was printed in the November/December 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

The Queen of Omaha Ice

October 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and provided

The ice rink is smooth like glass. A young woman glides across the surface, breaking it in with her skates’ sharp blades. Across the rink, her coach watches closely, analyzing
each move. 

Barbara Foster has been working at the Tim Moylan Tranquility Iceplex as a coach since it first opened in November 1995. Throughout her extensive career, she has coached students as young as 2 and as old as 82.

Foster was born and raised in the small mining community of Noranda, in Canada’s Quebec province. She attributes her perfectionist tendencies to her no-nonsense upbringing. 

Named after Barbara Ann Scott—a Canadian Olympic gold medalist and world champion in figure skating—there was little doubt that she would become comfortable at the rink.

Her father put her on the ice for the first time when she was only 2 years old, during the intermission of a local hockey game. Her first pair of skates were actually hockey skates. 

Dad was a high school principal and also refereed games in his spare time. He laced up her tiny skates, and she was a natural on the ice from the very beginning. Foster’s parents knew then that she would live up to her namesake. 

As a young student of figure skating, she trained with coaches in the summer, but was left to practice on her own during the brutal Canadian winters. She trained at a recreational rink, where she would come in through the back door and practice before school every morning.

Photo provided. Foster coaching a senior student.

When she was 14, she began training with Hans Gerschwiler, a World Figure Skating Champion and silver medalist at the 1948 Winter Olympics. When Gerschwiler moved to the United States in 1960, he asked Foster’s parents for permission to take her with him to continue her training. 

“He was an incredible skater for a long time,” Foster says. 

Foster trained with Gerschwiler in New Jersey and eventually became a teacher for his young students. While there, she developed a passion for coaching.

“The best part about teaching is the relationships,” Foster says with a smile. “There is no better job, and I get a lot of satisfaction from feeling that I’ve impacted my students.”

Since her days in New Jersey, she has coached all around the Midwest, Australia, and New Zealand. A perfectionist by nature, she stood out from other coaches and pushed her students to achieve the goals they placed for themselves. She eventually settled down in Omaha with husband Larry Foster, who retired from his job as the director of Council Bluffs Parks in August.

As a 74-year-old retired coach, she still enjoys teaching students of all ages, but she says she does not miss the rigorous seven-day training schedule she once lived by. 

In the past five years, she has undergone numerous procedures, including two back surgeries, total knee replacement, and treatment for a torn rotator cuff in her shoulder. But she refuses to let these procedures discourage her.

After knee surgery this past February, she was in Boston to support two of her students who went to the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Nationals in April. After her first back surgery in 2013, she was lacing up her skates again after three weeks of recovery (instead of the three months that doctors had expected to be necessary). 

Photo provided. Foster and her coaching mentor.

While teaching has always been a passion of hers, there is one passion that surpasses all others: her family. As a grandmother of nine, she is often on the road to visit her grandchildren, who are scattered across the country from Jacksonville, Florida, to  Olathe, Kansas, to Takoma Park, Maryland. 

Each summer, the grandchildren make a trek to Nebraska for one of their favorite annual events: “Camp Nana.” Foster started Camp Nana when the oldest grandchildren were toddlers. The parents drop off the grandkids for two weeks of fun-filled activities and bonding time.

“I never had an opportunity to be connected to my cousins,” Foster says. “I just really wanted to make sure that I could provide that opportunity for my grandkids.”

For the last 23 years, Foster has worked with youth and adult hockey players, and she even worked with the University of Nebraska-Omaha men’s hockey team to help correct players’ skating technique. 

“Figure skaters have techniques that even hockey coaches don’t quite understand,” Foster says. “It really helps if you can break it down and help them get the most out of their legs while their body is still handling a puck.”

Although she considers herself retired, she does still instruct a few students (teaching two days a week instead of seven). Even aside from her teaching, Foster says she would be at Tranquility Iceplex at some point every day doing a variety of jobs and chores that need to be completed: mounting figure skate blades, selling equipment at the rink’s pro shop, and fitting customers with new skates.

“It’s allowed me to have a lot of diversity,” Foster says. “So even at this age, where I’m not actively teaching, I have lots of other interests that keep me involved with the rink and the people in it, which is the fun part.”

Foster says she is never bored because of all the activities she has taken on. She works at the rink, teaches lessons, spends time with friends and does Pilates, which helps align her spine and strengthens her back.

“I am really looking forward to skating again,” says Foster, who gets on the ice with her students for instruction but is not attempting toe jumps, double axels, or triple lutzes. “After my knee replacement, I’m struggling to be able to demonstrate the power that correct technique can generate. I think that as everything settles down, I would like to get myself feeling really comfortable again on the ice.”

Foster is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. She holds students to her own high standard of excellence, too. They shouldn’t expect coddling or ego-stroking. If that’s what a student wants, then Foster says, “you’re with the wrong coach.” 


This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of 60Plus in Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Winter Is Coming

December 2, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The day after Christmas 2011 coincided with the eight-year anniversary of the day Matt and Kim Mixan first met. At the skating rink on 10th and Howard streets, a small group of their friends quietly encouraged Matt to go through with the afternoon’s plan: proposing to Kim. “It was something I’d been wanting to do for years,” he explains. “I’d always planned that spot, that day, that event, for three years in a row, and it never panned out.”

“At lunch, he was downing the margaritas,” Kim recalls. “I was like, what is going on?” The nerves didn’t go away. It took several laps around the crowded rink and Kim wanting to stop due to bruised ankles from the skates before Matt coaxed her to the center of the ice. With their friends surrounding them, he got down on one knee and said, “I couldn’t think of a better place to do this than on our eight-year anniversary with people who love us.” Laughing, Kim asked a couple times if he was serious, then answered, “Yeah, okay!”

Of course, it’s not strictly necessary to be prepared with that level of commitment before enjoying the ConAgra Foods Ice Skating Rink, and you don’t have to plan for three years. As of Sat., Dec. 14, all that’s really required is a five-dollar bill for admission and skates, because who has those? On the weekends, night owls and lovebirds alike can skate till midnight. Wear an elf hat and feel good about yourself, because 100 percent of proceeds go to Food Bank for the Heartland. The donations translated into 1.3 million meals last year, according to event manager Vic Gutman of Vic Gutman & Associates.

Still, the rink’s varying hours can get a little tricky to keep in mind. If you just want to soak up some holiday cheer already, Downtown’s Holiday Lights Festival is in full swing from Thanksgiving evening until about a week after the New Year. What that means in English is the trees along the Gene Leahy Mall are lit by more than a million fairy lights every night. As are six blocks of 24th Street in North Omaha. And six blocks of 24th Street in South Omaha. Soak up even more nostalgia and stop by the Mall around 7 p.m. on Saturdays. Choral groups, ranging from youth to professional, will regale passersby with holiday tunes for an hour.

But sometimes standing around admiring sparkling lights isn’t that appealing because, you know, winter. It’s cold. Get thee to Beer Corner USA on 36th and Farnam streets for Holiday Beerfest. This is a one-time deal on Sat., Dec. 7, and it’s from 1–5 p.m. (drinking in the afternoon? Psh, it’s the holidays. Also, good prep for long-planned proposals, apparently). The seasonal-brew-sampling fest has been going on for the past seven years, so get your tickets early ($22 in advance, $27 at the door) and drink your way through 100 or so winter brews and three separate bars: Crescent Moon, Huber-Haus, and Max and Joe’s. “Winter beers,” explains Michael Perdue, manager of the attached bottle shop, Beertopia, “are darker, use more roasted malt, and there might be some spice as well—cinnamon, cardamom. We’ll have a lot of porters, stouts, some strong English ales, too.”

What is beer without a little snack? The Old Market Candy Shop officially has its annual offering of pumpkin pie fudge. Owner Jeff Jorgensen promises that egg nog fudge is not far behind. Sometimes they have ribbon candy too, but don’t hold your breath. It may or may not be available when you go. Of course, right next door to the Candy Shop is Downtown’s permanent homage to Christmas, Tannenbaum Christmas Shop, also owned by Jorgensen.

Consider working off the chocolate with an amble along Farnam Street near 33rd. The shop windows at Midtown Crossing are decorated once again for Miracle on Farnam, a series of intricate holiday displays. More than 20 sponsors have designed these nostalgia-inducing, shadow-box-like tableaus. The windows housing animated pieces in particular call to mind postcards of old-fashioned toy shop windows decked out for the season.

It makes for quite a romantic stroll in the evening, by the way. No ice skates required. And let’s be real, you don’t want to be that guy who stole someone else’s proposal technique anyway.