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Hard work, ingenuity behind Florence community rink

  • Jill Kloc, 12, of Florence, front, with her bichon frise and her brother, Andrew Kloc, 11, play on the Florence Civic Center ice rink Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Jill Kloc, 12, of Florence, front, with her bichon frise and her brother, Andrew Kloc, 11, play on the Florence Civic Center ice rink Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Andrew Kloc, 11, of Florence, center, skates with Toby, the family's bichon frise, as his sister, Jill Kloc, 12, left, and their cousin, Kolbie Jones, 11, of Northampton, play on the ice Monday at the Florence Civic Center rink.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Andrew Kloc, 11, of Florence, center, skates with Toby, the family's bichon frise, as his sister, Jill Kloc, 12, left, and their cousin, Kolbie Jones, 11, of Northampton, play on the ice Monday at the Florence Civic Center rink.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jill Kloc, 12, of Florence, front, with her bichon frise and her brother, Andrew Kloc, 11, play on the Florence Civic Center ice rink Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Andrew Kloc, 11, of Florence, center, skates with Toby, the family's bichon frise, as his sister, Jill Kloc, 12, left, and their cousin, Kolbie Jones, 11, of Northampton, play on the ice Monday at the Florence Civic Center rink.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

For about 10 years, weather permitting, the space next to the Florence Civic Center has been transformed into a public skating rink.

Florence Civic and Business Association member Chris Powers said Monday that transformation is the result of hundreds of hours of work every year.

Powers said he, along with fellow association members Bill Hogan and Jason and Aaron Clark, put the finishing touches on the rink about 2 a.m. Monday to have it ready for later that day, when most children would be out of classes for vacation.

Fast forward eight hours and Powers and his sons, Kavan, 11, and Eamonn, 12, along with friend Jack “Whitey” Diggins, 11, were on the freshly polished ice, where they were running hockey drills.

Powers said most people aren’t aware of how much work goes into creating and maintaining the 40-by-80-foot rink.

He said when the weather turns cold enough, a tarp gets laid out and a frozen foundation is created.

Powers said forming the skating surface is where the effort and ingenuity of the rink-makers come into play.

Taking the lead of professional ice rinks and their resurfacing machines, Powers said the association has created its own version to keep the rink in skate-ready form.

Powers said the machine, which they have dubbed a “Flo-boni” — after Zamboni, the brand name of a common resurfacing machine — has been used for about five or six years and creates an exceptional skating surface.

The machine is a re-purposed riding mower with a 55-gallon tank on the back filled with hot water that is sprayed out through PVC piping and smoothed over with a piece of rubber sheeting attached to the back.

When the Flo-boni isn’t practical, Powers said, the crew has “heat-rakes” made from PVC piping that dispense and smooth hot water to help create a glassy surface on the rink.

The idea for the rakes came from a video found on YouTube, Powers said.

He said before the rink gets coated, all of the grooves and cuts from skates and feet have to be filled in with snow, a job made much easier by the recent storm.

The rink also gets damaged from foot traffic from visitors who don’t observe the signs when the rink is closed when the weather is too warm, he said.

Given the amount of work, Powers said, building the rink is a labor of love; it provides a great physical outlet for kids who may not get as much playtime in during the winter as they do during spring and summer.

“I can’t believe there’s not 50 kids out here,” Powers said, gesturing across the rink where there were only three children at that point taking advantage of the rink.

Activity at the rink doesn’t end when the sun goes down. A light display created by Florence resident David Clark keeps things lit up into the evening, when skate blades blink with reflected light and skaters’ shadows are cast on the ice.

“It’s beautiful at night,” Powers said.

Powers said the association is already working on expanding Florence’s winter recreation for next year with plans to build a curling sheet and form a league for those interested in competing in the offbeat winter sport.

For the uninitiated, curling requires teams to slide a large polished stone down a frozen lane, called a curling sheet, and into a target, while other players sweep in front of the stone’s path with large brooms.

“That’s next year’s mission,” he said.

•••

New yoga center

For those looking for a different type of exercise, River Valley Yoga Center recently opened on North Maple Street.

Owners Susan Elena Esquivel and Suzie Goldstein teach classes in the Iyengar yoga tradition at the center, which opened Jan. 30.

That tradition sometimes uses props like belts or blocks to help with some of the poses, according to a statement from the center.

Because it sometimes uses assistive devices to achieve postures, the method minimizes risks of injury or strain, according to the center’s website.

The center is open seven days a week and is running an introductory program during the month of February which allows new students to try a class for $5.

For information, call the center at 584-1414 or email contact@rivervalleyyoga.com.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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