Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, now 4 years old, has become as much a community center as ice rink and is gearing up for its busiest months of the year.
The Washington Capitals National Hockey League team has been practicing there since September. Youth hockey has proved to be extremely popular. More than 200 people have signed up for figure-skating lessons to begin in December, and about 60 skaters are involved in the rink's competitive figure-skating programs.
The demand for time on the ice is so great that the rink is open some days from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.
"It has met up with our expectations," said Stanley J. Klos Jr., president of the management company that runs the rink. "Our biggest problem remains that we cannot provide enough prime ice."
Prime ice is skating time between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., when most young people and adults want to use the rink.
Mr. Klos and a friend, Robert D. Hauk, initiated plans for the arena because they thought the county needed another place to accommodate fast-growing youth hockey leagues.
Both have children who play hockey, and the only other year-round rink in the county is on Benfield Road in Millersville.
(The county runs a seasonal ice rink in Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis that is expected to open in mid-December.)
Mr. Klos and Mr. Hauk convinced KMS, developers of Piney Orchard, to build and help finance the Piney Orchard rink off Piney Orchard Parkway. It attracts skaters and hockey teams from all over Anne Arundel and some from outside the county.
On a recent afternoon, about 200 people came out to enjoy a few hours of skating during a public session.
"It's probably my favorite" rink, said Richard Huffman, 13, of Bowie, taking a break from practicing skating for hockey. "It's so big. The ice is so much better than the other ones. It's easier to skate on."
That's because the rink was built to National Hockey League standards to accommodate the Capitals.
For Kevin Pippin and his 4-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, ice skating is affordable family entertainment. The day after Thanksgiving, Mr. Pippin bought three tickets for $3 each on a holiday rate and rented skates for himself and his daughter for $1.50 each. The total package was $12.
"You can't go to the movies for that," he said. And he likes the rink. "It's a little roomier" than other rinks, he said. "They have it set up more for spectators."
Permanent bleachers with seating for 500 above the rink on one side and a row of picnic tables at one end are favored by nonskating adults and children who watch the action on the ice from there.
The Capitals, area high school and college hockey teams, youth hockey leagues and an increasingly popular adult league are the rink's main users.
The in-house youth league has been a success.
"This year, there's probably about 300 kids," said rink manager Kevin Potter. "It's growing by leaps and bounds."