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Color Burst ice rink in Columbia provides an outlet for the pent-up during pandemic

With sparkling lights overhead and a chill in the air, skaters of all ages took to the ice at the new Color Burst ice rink in Columbia on Dec. 19. Whether to celebrate a birthday, try something new or to get some exercise, for most it was a chance to be together safely during the pandemic.

“It is nice to have an outdoor activity to do in a pandemic,” said Maria Verderamo, of Columbia. “This is really cute.”

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“It felt like the right time to try it again,” said Dylan Podson, of Ellicott City, as he worked his way around the rink while his mother and sister watched from the sidelines.

“We’re supporters,” said Katie Podson, his sister. “I can see him getting me out on the ice next time.”

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Plans to open an outdoor skating rink in Columbia started last year, according to Talt Olexin, the rink manager, and continued despite the pandemic with new protocols in place. The rink can operate at only 50% capacity with 36 tickets available every 30 minutes for a total of no more than 90 people on the ice at a time. Participants are asked to purchase tickets online, and there is no guarantee tickets will be available for walk-ups.

Tickets are for 75 minutes of skating time and include skate rentals. All skates are routinely disinfected. Multiple hand sanitizer stations are in place, and masks must be worn on and off the ice at all times.

“People are pretty respectful,” Olexin said. “Business has been really good — for a COVID year.”

Indoor ice-skating sessions at the members-only Columbia Ice Rink sell out quickly, according to Dannika Rynes, senior media relations and communications manager for the Columbia Association, as government restrictions allow only 10 people in a gathering — for a total of nine people on the ice and one employee.

“It’s far less than what we are used to hosting,” Rynes said. “Between avid hockey players trying to keep up on their stick work or skaters on their skills ... it fills up.”

All registration is done online. Members and guests can sign up for public skate and stick-and-puck hockey sessions up to 14 days in advance, but that can change depending on the demand and spikes in COVID cases, Rynes said.

The Gardens Ice House in Laurel is not open for public skate sessions due to Prince George’s County regulations, according to staff.

Mandy Hackler, of Millersville, was at Color Burst Ice Rink with her family because management of the outdoor ice-skating rink at Quiet Waters Park in Anne Arundel County chose not to open this season.

“I think it is nice, but I’m not thrilled with how crowded it is,” said Hackler, as she watched her family skate.

Ashley Silva, who was celebrating her daughter Ashton’s eighth birthday, said she felt safe at the rink.

“It is something fun to do outdoors,” Silva said. “You can’t do much else.”

Every weekend until the rink closes on Jan. 31, Cured/18th & 21st, a restaurant in Columbia, offers a changing menu of homemade soups, grilled burgers, hot pretzels and more as well as a variety of beverages from hot cocoa to cocktails at the rink.

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“It’s definitely helping out,” said Taylor Radcliff, who was overseeing the pop-up food service and is a bartender. “We are making decent money here.”

He is uncertain, however, that the restaurant will return to offer food next year.

“This time last year, we were voted best restaurant in Howard County and we were busy,” said Radcliff, who is hoping for similar results next year at this time.

“This was out of a necessity type of thing,” he said.

Olexin, too, doubts he will be overseeing the Color Burst Rink next year, as he typically oversees the opening of new rinks around the country for Ice Rink Events. He is positive, however, that the Color Burst Ice Rink will be back next year.

“Our numbers are looking good and our weekends are good,” said Olexin, who was back to work after losing the tip of his finger in a Zamboni accident two days before.

“You’ve got to respect the machine,” he said, as he went to help a skater with their skates. “I love this job.”

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