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Liberty Station’s outdoor ice rink now open for the winter season

Liam Kobetsky, 9, skates at the Rady Children's Hospital ice rink at Liberty Station on Sunday
Liam Kobetsky, 9, skates at the Rady Children’s Hospital ice rink at Liberty Station on Sunday, November 20, 2022
(Sandy Huffaker/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

One ice skating rink, three ways: witnessing Liberty Station’s rink through the eyes of a child, a parent and a grandparent

An ice skating rink is a lot of things. It is a milky white stage where everyone is the star of their own fantasy on ice. It is a fight ring for wrestling down fears — of falling, getting up again, or looking weird while doing either. It’s a runway for all sorts of leaps. It is a ticket to a certain kind of calm.

A San Diego outdoor ice rink is one more: a little disorienting, in that charmingly San Diego way: Does it feel like summer or winter? Should you wear gloves or a tank top? Sip hot chocolate or iced coffee?

Now in its 26th year, the Rady Children’s Hospital Ice Rink in Liberty Station opened Thursday, and on Sunday morning, people showed up looking for a hint of winter. Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” was blasting from the speakers instead of Michael Bublé, but it was starting to feel a lot like the holidays.

Three skaters — two present and one past — talked with the Union-Tribune about what it means to spend time ice skating with family in San Diego.

Details

The Rady Children’s Hospital Ice Rink in Liberty Station is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets, which include skate rentals, cost $20 for adults and $15 for kids. There is a discount for online purchases and for the military. The rink raises funds for the hospital. Open daily, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Location: Legacy Plaza, near 2875 Dewey Road. Website: https://rchicerink.org/

The almost teenager flying almost solo

 Ice skaters enjoy the Rady Children's Hospital ice rink at Liberty Station on Sunday, November 20, 2022 San Diego.
Ice skaters enjoy the Rady Children’s Hospital ice rink at Liberty Station on Sunday, November 20, 2022 San Diego.
(Sandy Huffaker/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Veronica Nessheim was one of the first people on the ice, lacing up right as the rink opened at 10 a.m.. At 12, she is doing more by herself these days. On Sunday, she skated alone as her mom, Natalia, watched her and read from a nearby bench. Before hitting the ice, Veronica had headed to the rental counter and picked her own skates. Still, she turned back and called out to her mom about which size she’s supposed to get: kid or adult?

“Adult!” her mom called back.

Sunday was a mother-daughter outing. Veronica’s friends would have come, but they were out of town. Is it harder to do that — spend time as a duo — now that her daughter is almost a teenager?

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s hard. It’s just, you have to cater to their needs, which activities they like,” Natalia said. They live in Rancho San Diego, and Liberty Station is a family favorite.

Veronica bounded over, skates in hand. She’s been skating since she was in first grade. Now it’s second nature. “It’s pretty much like walking, but faster,” she said. On the ice, she feels like a kid again. “It’s nice and calming. It’s an easy way to get out of, like, life. Like all the hard things and stuff.”

This in-between age comes with its stresses, Veronica reminded her two listeners. For one, there is no playground in middle school. Also, lots of extracurriculars eat into weekends. Veronica studies honors English and advanced math at her Spanish and Mandarin immersion school.

How does she feel about spending time with her mom? “Um, honestly, now I just wanna stay away from my parents as much as possible. Sorry, mom.”

“That’s ok,” her mother said gently.

On the ice, Veronica glided past other skaters at a leisurely pace, her bright pink sunglasses, wavy bangs, pink t-shirt and pale blue jeans giving off an ‘80s vibe.

The grown up looking for wintry fun and a good cause

Karis Dobson’s daughters have been excited to go ice skating since last winter.

“Every year, there’s a huge period of time between ice skating,” said her older daughter, Raegan, 10, who added that it can be hard to wait. Aria, 5, said she likes skating fast.

The family lives in Point Loma. They’ll probably come back a few times this season. “It’s nice to have a fun winter activity — when it’s 75 degrees outside,” Karis, 38, said.

The girls and mother had just stepped off the ice and Karis was doing a few things — coordinating with friends, tending to a child’s complaints about skates being uncomfortable, checking in with her husband and their 3-year-old son. They didn’t stay at the rink all morning, but they got their hands stamped so they could come back in the afternoon. Maybe. The day was pleasantly in flux.

“We didn’t skate that long today. But knowing that it’s going to Children’s Hospital, I wasn’t as worried about getting my bang for my buck,” Karis said.

At some point, Karis added, she wouldn’t mind having a few minutes on the ice without a little person hanging on to her arm. “It’s kind of nice when the kids sit down,” she said. “Just to be going a little fast, getting your groove, feeling like a kid again.”

The doting, self-actualized onlooker

Nancy Coombs didn’t see her grandchildren in person for about a year and a half, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. They live in San Diego. She lives in the Bay Area.

“The little one is 4, so I missed her whole third year,” Coombs said. She nudged her son and daughter-in-law for a third child. “It was a joke,” she quickly added.

As the kids, now 4 and 6, and their parents moved past her on the ice, Coombs soaked in what she’d missed all those months.

She surveyed them from a shady spot, on firm ground.

“I haven’t been on the ice for a long time. As an old lady, my balance isn’t — your balance ages just like everything else,” she said, adding that she is 71. The last time she was on ice skates was about 10 years ago. (Tennis is her sport, she said.)

She doesn’t miss skating, but she does remember liking it. “I love the freedom of it, being out on the ice. It’s kind of like cycling, you know? When you bicycle you’re kind of free.” How so? “Just, the movement.”

In the past 10 years, she’s found another kind of freedom, she said.

“I guess I do feel totally free as far as my age. I feel I can, you know, do what I want,” Coombs said, then clarified: not anything she wants. “I mean, if I wanna go a day and not brush my hair, you know what, I’m okay with that. And if you don’t like it, you know…” Her voice trailed off. She also stopped dyeing her hair during the pandemic.

Growing up in Oregon, Coombs loved playing outside. Rain didn’t stop her. Now she loves seeing her family living an outdoorsy lifestyle. Her son walked over. They were done skating. It was time for the next adventure: lunch.


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