As Temperatures Drop, Demand at DuPage Ice Arenas Skyrockets

Article excerpt

Byline: John Lemon Daily Herald Correspondent

Those unmistakable signs of fall are becoming apparent once again. The leaves are starting to turn, the temperatures are dropping and the local ice arenas in DuPage County are filling up.

Arenas such as All Seasons in Naperville, Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Seven Bridges in Woodridge, Downers Grove Ice Arena and the brand-new Blades Ice and Fitness Center in Addison are ready for business. And lots of it.

Skating and hockey continue to grow in popularity, and the local ice arenas are scrambling to find enough ice team for everyone interested. Some owners almost have more demand than a 24-hour day permits.

"The fall session is when the weather turns cold and this is when it really starts to pick up," said Heather Eberly, who works with the skating programs at All Seasons. "I think it's something happening nationwide. Figure skating and hockey have a lot of popularity, a lot of benefits health-wise at any age, and I think more people are realizing it."

There are barely enough numbers on a phone for Center Ice's automated answering machine to list all of the programs and leagues offered. Carol Balkus, director of the skating school, said Center Ice is prepared for its busiest season yet. The arena opened with 150 skaters in its winter program six years ago. Balkus expects more than 1,000 - of all ages - to learn this winter.

"It varies with the season," Balkus said. "We start out with 500 in September, have about 750 in November and by January and February we have well over 1,000. In March it goes down again when the weather gets warm."

Center Ice's instructional skating programs run for nine weeks. Because of the enormous amount of ice time hockey takes, there are only five hours a week set aside for the skating leagues.

There are days in the fall and winter when Center Ice stays open until 3 a. …