Midtown skate oval almost ready for action

Mike Campbell

Crews are applying the final coats of water to the Midtown Speedskating Oval so it can open this weekend.

Some skaters have already tested the 400-meter oval in the Cuddy Family Midtown Park. Despite a few cracks and bumps, it's fine for skating.

"We're not in midseason competition form with the ice," Edwin Blair, owner of Alpine Services, which services the oval, said Thursday. "I'm flooding it today, and then we'll cut it tomorrow with the Zamboni."

The Olympic-size speedskating oval debuted last winter to acclaim by local speedskaters as well as recreational bladers. Just five other communities in the United States -- Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, Lake Placid, N.Y., Roseville, Minn., and Butte, Mont. -- have long-track outdoor speedskating ovals. Some are refrigerated, others covered.

Because Westchester Lagoon was drained and unavailable the early part of last winter, the speedskating oval got heightened attention.

"I'm very happy with the layout of the track and there was a lot of people using it," Blair said. "It's more of a fitness oval -- not just for speedskaters. It was fun to see the number of people out there last year, particularly around the noon hour."

The Alaska Speedskating Club has a number of races and workouts scheduled for the oval, said club president Amy Fitzpatrick. One highlight is a visit Jan. 3 by former Olympic speedskater and bronze medalist Beth Reid (formerly Heiden), who will conduct a clinic for the club. Her daughter, Joanne Reid, will compete at the ConocoPhillips U.S. Cross Country Championships at Kincaid Park, beginning Jan. 2.

Meanwhile, John McCleary of the municipal parks and recreation department, expects city lakes to be open to skaters soon.

"Ice is quickly forming on the lakes," he said. "If Mother Nature cooperates with another week of subzero cold with no snow, the lakes could be online by Dec. 1."

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