Upon entrance into Chaparral Ice in Northcross Mall, visitors may get the sense they have been teleported from Texas into an ice sports state of the North.
As Austin’s only publicly accessible, regulation-size indoor ice rink, the frozen sheet at the center of the complex lays the foundation for icy recreation Central Texans would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
The rink is occupied seven days a week by people gliding across the ice during each of Chaparral Ice’s 19-20 hours of operation.
“We’re open enough to get everyone here who needs to be out here,” owner Ryan Raya said.
“Everyone” includes an eclectic group—from figure and speed skaters, hockey players and curlers to those just being introduced to the rink. Raya estimates that 70,000 different people come to the rink each year, most to get some laps around the rink, while the rest are there for hockey and curling leagues or speed and figure skating competitions.
“It’s a community ice-skating rink that is the single access point for people who are new to ice sports,” Raya said. “We’re a place for people who don’t go with the traditional sports or the traditional crowd.”
Some skaters are highly competitive. The Texas Stars, Central Texas’ minor-league hockey team, practices at the rink, and Chaparral is the home of the University of Texas club hockey squad. Some of the youth leagues that play at Chaparral have made it to international tournaments, Raya said, and local figure skaters have competed in national competitions. But not everyone is there to compete.
“It’s just people who want to be active in the winter, or they’re just looking for free air conditioning in the summer when it’s 120 degrees out, and they get hooked,” Raya said.
Chaparral Ice has been in business for 21 years; however, Raya took ownership in January 2017. The rink has since undergone $700,000 worth of renovations to clean up the ice and refurbish the concession stands. Demand for ice time is growing, and Raya said Chaparral is prepared to break ground on a new ice complex in Cedar Park in early 2019.