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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Chill out at the Rink

Love of ice sports has drawn 80,000 visitors to Singapore's first Olympic-sized ice-skating rink at JCube since it opened.
The Straits Times - September 7, 2012
By: Nicholas Yong
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Chill out at the Rink Friends Willie Koh and Bob Ho at JCube ice skating rink's disco night (above). -- PHOTOS: MARKrnCHEONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

In tropical Singapore, one hot hobby is ice skating. And the place to do it is The Rink at JCube mall at Jurong East, which since opening just five months ago, has already attracted 80,000 visitors.

The 1,800 sq m ice-skating rink - Singapore's first and only Olympic-sized one - is a hub of icy activities. Some people hang out on skates or enjoy ice disco dancing.

Others take part in serious sports such as figure skating - doing intricate moves such as spins and jumps - and ice hockey where two teams compete to shoot a hard rubber "puck" into their opponent's net.

On weekends alone, an average of 3,000 people, including skaters and spectators, chill out at The Rink. The viewing gallery alone can seat about 460 people.

Also drawing crowds is the fact that the third-floor rink is surrounded by eateries such as Nando's and Chili's Grill & Bar, so skaters and spectators can take a break and fuel up.

The $6-million skating rink is on the site once occupied by Fuji Ice Palace, which closed in 2008. Since then, until The Rink opened in April this year, ice skaters had only Kallang Ice World, which is about half the size, and the 600 sq m Marina Bay Sands Skating Rink.

Financial controllers Ho Chi Wen, 48, and May Phua, 46, have become regulars at JCube as their daughter Jia Ying loves ice skating. Mr Ho recalls going to the old Fuji Ice Palace with his wife in the 1980s, which was then located at the old Rex cinema in Mackenzie Road.

"Services were quite rudimentary. The rink was not very big and there was nobody to teach you," says Mr Ho. Fuji Ice Palace eventually relocated to Jurong East before closing.

A popular regular event at The Rink is disco night. This takes place on the first and third Friday of every month, when the number of skaters doubles from the average of about 200.

When Life! visited two weeks ago, it was rock 'n' roll night while tonight's will have a K-pop theme.

The Rink was packed with skaters, including about 100 students from Nanyang Technological University. Some were sporting skates with glowing lights as they glided confidently around the ice while others held hands as they gingerly took their first steps.

Amid the pulsating beats and strobe lights were SAF regular Willie Koh, 23, and skating buddy Bob Ho, 25, an odd-job worker. The duo come to JCube up to twice a month and were at disco night for the first time. However, Mr Koh says: "It's too packed, there are too many people."

SAF regular Fong Li Jie, 22, a skater of three years who spends all his spare time at The Rink, would also prefer fewer people: "Disco night is fun because sometimes we will form a circle and do tricks. But I prefer open spaces as there is more space to skate."

Mr Fong recalls school holidays spent entirely at Fuji Ice Palace during his polytechnic days: "I would be there at 10am when it opened and I would skate till 10pm because it had unlimited rates. It cost $12 for the whole day."

Another former Fuji Ice Palace regular is Su Li Wen, 20, who used to go there after she picked up ice skating in secondary school.

Ms Su, who lives 20 minutes from JCube near Bukit Panjang, skates once a week on weekdays to avoid the crowds.

Asked if she is surprised by the popularity of The Rink, Ms Su, who is majoring in business and accounting, says: "No. Even at Fuji Ice Palace, it was crowded enough that the ice would become watery and rough, so I'm kind of used to it."

The speed and figure skating athletes also prefer to avoid the crowds. They converge on The Rink before and after opening hours on the weekends.

National Sports Associations such as the Singapore Ice Skating Association and Singapore Ice Hockey Association rent The Rink for their training sessions. And while JCube is owned by CapitaMall Trust, the Singapore Sports Council is the tenant of The Rink.

It is certainly seeing its share of sports action. Just last week, it hosted the Singapore Short Track and Ice Speed Skating National Championship.

Ice hockey players including accounts manager Ang Yu Jin, 25, who has been doing the sport for seven years, are glad to have a new facility such as The Rink.

He tells Life! that he can recall the "desperate" days after Fuji Ice Palace closed. He says: "We would go up to Kuala Lumpur every six months for ice hockey sessions for three to four days organised by a local ice hockey club."

Book it

THE RINK

Where: 2 Jurong East Central 1, Level 3 JCube

When: Sundays to Thursdays, 9.30am to 9.30pm, Fridays to Saturdays, 9.30am to 11.45pm

Admission: $21.50 for adults, $19.50 for children below 12. Prices include rental skate boots, gloves and socks

Info: www.theRink.sg

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