The Naval Academy ice rink is going through a two-year thaw.
That means figure-skating lessons are off, Navy hockey might be on hiatus, and military personnel, their families and thousands of midshipmen will be out of luck when they want to strap on skates in the winter.
"We hate to see it close," Tim Bumford of Crownsville, whose 9-year-old son, Marc, skates in the Navy Youth Hockey league, said yesterday. "Coming here, being part of this tradition, has meant so much to our family."
The decision to close the rink comes in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation program at the Naval Academy. The next project is the mess hall in King Hall, where 4,000 midshipmen eat three meals a day.
With the mess hall soon to be out of commission, academy officials could find only one place big enough to feed all the midshipmen at once -- the rink in Dahlgren Hall. So a few months from now, the students will be dining in the center of a giant, drained ice rink.
"That is the plan for now," said Navy spokesman Cmdr. Mike Brady, "though the formal contract for the renovation work has not been finalized."
In addition to renovating King Hall, Dahlgren Hall will also get a face lift. The ice rink will be refurbished before it reopens about two years from now.
"This place is going to be 90 percent redone," said Rob Ruzza, the operations manager of the rink. "It's going to be great."
The rink, usually not open to the public, offered free skating yesterday, and several hundred Annapolis-area residents showed up. About 3: 30 p.m., there was a chill in the air, and the Zamboni was making its final whirl around the oblong rink.
The children were lined up, ready to get on the ice, and their parents were reminding them to go slow.
Chris Murphy of Annapolis was in the middle of the rink with his children -- ages 2 and 4 -- and was having trouble keeping them from falling at the same time. Christopher, a few days shy of his third birthday, was starting to get the hang of it after a couple of hours. But every now and then, size 8 children's skates would trip him up.
The elder Murphy had just got Christopher up when his daughter, Elena, fell. She finally decided to make it easy on him.
"I'll just stay down here," she said, giggling.
One issue left undecided in the renovations is the fate of the Navy hockey team. Discussions have begun on buying ice time from a nearby rink and holding home games there. There have also been rumors of the team's taking two years off.
"We'd hate to see that," Bumford said. "We love to come here for those games. There's nothing like it."
Pub Date: 1/19/99