WISCASSET, Maine — Mother Nature wishes she had it so easy.
While ice skating enthusiasts await the weather to turn water solid, the owners of a growing Wiscasset business are counting the days on a construction schedule. Monkey C Monkey Do, a two-year-old outdoor adventure center in Wiscasset, is about to debut an ice skating rink that isn’t fazed by the weather — even the hot, sticky doldrums of summer.
To be clear, the slippery stuff at the new rink isn’t exactly ice, but according the owners, it’s most definitely ice-esque.
“It’ll withstand temperatures from negative 100 to 180 degrees above zero,” said Roland LaCombe, Monkey C Monkey Do’s general manager. “It’s low maintenance, eco-friendly, nontoxic and requires no refrigeration. We’ll be ice skating year-round.”
The synthetic ice, which currently is stored on pallets in 4-foot-by-4-foot sheets, comes from Spain. The product, known as Xtraice (Motto: Now the Rules Have Changed), will be installed and ready for pirouettes and slap shots by mid-February, said LaCombe.
Monkey C Monkey Do opened two years ago on Route 1 near the Woolwich/Wiscasset town line and in 2011, had more than 11,000 visitors. The business, which features a web of towering zip lines, rope swings and other airborne challenges, has met and exceeded all financial expectations, according to Bill King III, one of the owners. With the gangly apparatus often at capacity in the warmer months and closed in frigid winter, LaCombe and King said the impetus behind the skating rink idea was to give visitors more options and to take the business year-round.
The rink, which is under construction at the hands of Doug Tourtellote Excavation of Bowdoinham, will measure 35 feet by 65 feet, about one-third the size of a regulation hockey rink. If all goes well, LaCombe said he hopes its size will be doubled or tripled in the next few years. He and the others who run the business did a lot of research before they settled on Xtraice, a relatively new synthetic ice product which according to the company’s website is already used by world-renowned figure skaters and some professional hockey teams. It fits together like a seamless jigsaw puzzle and requires Zamboni-like resurfacing every two weeks or so.
“It’s not 100 percent like real ice, but it’s pretty close,” said LaCombe. “If you’re a skier, it’s like the difference between crisp, fresh powder versus man-made snow. I’ve skated on it myself and after a few minutes, you don’t even realize it’s not ice.”
King, former owner of of the now-closed Kennebec Camera in Bath who partners with his wife Danielle at Monkey C Monkey Do, said that aside from putting ice skates to year-round use, the rink will give summer visitors another option if they lack the courage to strap on a safety harness and climb the obstacle course.
“Sometimes when a family comes there’s a kid who’s afraid to do it, so they end up sitting at a picnic table and watching,” said King. “Now we can say, ‘would you like to try the skating rink?’”
Skate rentals in sizes from children to adults will be available, as well as a warming hut and ice-skating-essential hot chocolate. Rink time pricing will be $5 for children and $7.50 for adults, with the intention of a family being able to enjoy a few hours on the ice for less than $25. LaCombe said the facility will also be available for special events, such as birthday parties, and possibly for skating lessons or hockey clinics. For information, visit Monkey C Monkey Do on its Facebook page or at monkeycmonkeydo.com.