Steve Smith and his daughter Ashley used to ice skate every weekend until they moved to Columbia four years ago. Andrew Matheney travels to Jefferson City or Hallsville to play in a hockey league. Seth Smith has only skated once in the past eight years.
But that all changed Saturday when they hit the ice with several other skating enthusiasts at Stephens Lake.
Seth Smith, 37, said he jumped at the chance to pull on his skates as soon as he heard the lake was frozen. The lake opened to skaters on Thursday.
“I’ve been out here every day since it opened,” Seth Smith said. He said the last time he skated was the last time Stephens Lake froze over. According to Park Services Manager Mike Griggs, that was in 1999.
“It shows that if we’re going to end up with skating in Columbia, it will have to be some kind of man-made rink,” Griggs said.
About 15 skaters enjoyed the rare opportunity Saturday morning. Many brought along hockey equipment including a small temporary goal. Matheney, 15, brought his friends Lane Fanguy, 19, and Blake Fanguy, 15, with plans to teach them how to play hockey. There was just one problem: The Fanguy brothers didn’t own skates.
“I try to go to Jeff City once or twice a year,” Lane Fanguy said. “I was thinking about getting some skates; I just didn’t know where to get them.”
Seth Smith said he was wearing skates that were at least 12 years old, and Ashley Smith, 14, was wearing a pair her father wore when he was 10. Johann and Sunshine Montoya said they were hoping to give their 3-year-old daughter, Nevaeh, her first experience on the ice, but they did not know where to find ice skates either.
As of Saturday morning, the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Conley Road had already received three requests for ice skates, said Matthew Yingling, a sales associate. A sales associate at Wal-Mart on West Broadway said two people had called about ice skates, but it is too late in the season to order anymore.
John Cordia, a sales associate at Play It Again Sports on Business Loop 70, said the store stopped carrying ice skates many years ago, but he expects the store will order some next fall.
MC Sports carries ice skates, and store manager Mary Reifsteck said she has seen at least a 25 percent increase in sales of skates since last year.
“Just (Friday) we sold 15 pairs,” she said.
To fill the demand for skates, Reifsteck said she had to call other MC Sports stores in places such as Michigan and Wisconsin and ask that they send more skates for her to sell. She estimated the store had between 50 and 100 pairs of skates left on Saturday morning. She said women’s and teens’ sizes were selling the fastest.
Jeremiah Wade, manager of Alpine Shop III downtown, said another snag for potential skaters is that there is no place in town to get skates sharpened. He said Alpine has no plans to add skates to its inventory or to offer skate sharpening.