University of Maryland: La Plata Beach’s Cool Transformation

We likely left our wintriest weather behind when the calendar flipped to March yesterday, but that didn’t stop Terps from savoring one final frosty fling.

La Plata Beach became a temporary tundra last night as the Student Government Association partnered with University Recreation and Wellness to bring an ice rink to campus, complete with cozy cocoa, coffee and cookies. Hundreds of students skated and snacked at the Winter Wonderland event, made possible through $8,000 in surplus funds that the SGA allocated late last semester.

“Most of the funds that we provided (were for) initiatives that were long-term. But we wanted to also do one community-building initiative, where we bring the UMD community together for something that they all would potentially enjoy and spark conversation between people,” SGA President Kislay Parashar ’22 said of the surplus, which also supported a new Fraternity Row space for members of cultural interest fraternities and sororities, 20 water bottle-filling stations and mental health first aid training.

After the omicron spike subsided, the SGA and RecWell searched for a location with enough even ground for the 40-by-60-foot rink, settling on La Plata Beach. The rink itself came from All Year Sports Galaxy, which specializes in synthetic ice to allow for skating extravaganzas at any time or temperature—so yesterday’s mid-50s hints of spring didn’t melt away the wintry whimsy.

Ayelette Halbfinger ’23, SGA co-chief of staff and UMD Figure Skating Club member, helped nail down the on-ice logistics, with waves of 20 students reserving 45-minute time slots on IMLeagues to keep capacity under control. With music blaring and a machine spewing out artificial snow, Terps laced up their free skate rentals and—depending on their skill level—swerved, scooched or shuffled along.

While the giant puzzle pieces of plasticky surface took a bit of getting used to because they aren’t quite as slick as a traditional skating rink, Anthony Hotton ’24, who took the ice with Alexandra Herrera ’22, was glad he at least didn’t fall. Others in their group danced and took selfies and they made their way around the rink.

The event was especially cheery after years of COVID-canceled events, said Mary Kate S. Crawford, associate director for RecWell programs.

“We’re certainly sensitive to the fact that a lot of our first- and second-year students on campus in particular haven’t gotten to experience some of the really wonderful parts about campus life,” she said. “So we wanted to bring something that appealed to a wide range of people and also was unique to anything else they could get elsewhere on campus.”

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