New 'ice' rink debuts at Brookfield Zoo

Skating surface actually synthetic, so it won't melt

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By Hillary Bird

Contributing Reporter

Cherrilyn Gonzalez has skated on real ice and felt at ease when she stepped onto the new synthetic ice surface at Brookfield Zoo.

On a field trip to the zoo on Nov. 1 with her Burbank school, Gonzalez, 11, was among the first children in the area to try the new Glice rink.

Skating alongside Chicago Wolves' mascot Skates, Gonzalez says, "When I saw the rink, I knew it would be fun."

"It's a little different on the floor," Gonzalez says, "but it's sort of the same."

Glice is a synthetic material that doesn't use electricity or power to maintain an ice-like surface. It can remain outside in any temperature.

Unlike the ice the Wolves use to skate on every day, Glice doesn't need to be refrigerated, which cuts down on the environmental impact. The Chicago Wolves are a sponsor of the rink, which will remain at the zoo until the end of January.

"We wanted an ice rink at our zoo, but as a conservation organization, our impact on the environment was very important," says Leah Rippe, the vice president for marketing and communication at the zoo. "It was also important to have the highest-quality surface, so we started researching."

The Glice surface uses regular ice skates, which can be rented at the zoo for $5 or guests are invited to bring their own.

George Rivera, one of Gonzalez's classmates, says his first time on skates was on the new synthetic surface.

"I thought I would fall a bunch of times, but it was really easy and fun," Rivera says.

Mike Gordon, president of the Chicago Wolves, says that he's skated on a synthetic surface and jumped at the chance to join the Brookfield Zoo as it brought Glice to the Chicago area.

"It's more forgiving than regular ice," Gordon says. "It's a lot more friendly to the beginning skater, because you don't slide as much and you can keep your balance."

Joining the Detroit Zoo and Columbus Zoo, Brookfield became just the third zoo in the country with a Glice surface.

"During the Holiday Magic festivities, we'll have lights on the trees out here at night," Rippe says.

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