Skating in Detroit


Over the holidays, your staff had the good fortune to check out the recently opened ice skating rink at Campus Martius downtown - the former and perhaps future heart of Detroit. In a city built for cars, this represents a nice reversal - a place built for people to come together on foot (or at least on skates!)

Let's dispense with the negatives right quick. The rink is small. Certainly if you're looking for a place to work on your Olympic ice-dance routine, this might not be it. But it holds up to 250 people at a time which is pretty nice. It's expensive. Ok, skate rentals are $3 and ice time is $7 for adults and $6 for children and senior citizens. Bring your own skates and it's cheaper than the movies, and involves a lot less sitting. Renting skates is a bit chaotic. This one is hard to deny. Since you have to exchange your shoes for the skates, keeping your socks from getting soaked on the slushy floor is a delicate operation. We solved it by using two people - one to sit down shoeless, while the other picks up the skates. And then they switch roles. And lastly it's cold. Hmmmm, I guess there's really no getting around that one.

So on to the positive. It was packed when we went on the crisp Sunday afternoon after Christmas. After procuring our skates (for the most part preserving the dryness of our socks) we hit the ice. Just like our own little group, the rink was filled with both experienced skaters as well as just as many people who've never before slipped a skate on their feet. This mix of beginners gingerly doing their best just to stay upright while standing still, as other skaters whipped past them is an interesting dynamic to watch. I was pretty sure I would be witnessing collision after collision - the rink being like the inside of a popcorn popper, with people like kernels ricocheting off one another constantly. But this was not the case. The skilled weaved gracefully and quite quickly through the more stationary skaters, somehow narrowly avoiding countless potential accidents.

Which isn't to say people didn't fall down. Because they did. Constantly. Several times a minute, somewhere on that ice, somebody was taking a tumble! The ice didn't seem to discriminate between young and old, or level of experience for that matter. At some point the slippery surface claimed almost everyone.

But almost as quickly as they went down, people got right back up. And kept going. Perhaps the only thing more prevalent than people falling was the joyful look on people's faces. Everyone was smiling. As the flow of people kept circling ever counter-clockwise (at least on the day we went) there was a unity between people not so easily visible in the typical traffic flow downtown. People helped each other up after a crash, and the feeling of harmony on that ice was enough to warm even the coldest toes and fingertips.

This is truly a great thing for the city. Go be a part of it. You'll be glad you did. - nick

For more information about Campus Martius, click here:

For ice times and schedules for the rink, click here:

Photos by Dan "the man" Sousanis
© 2002