Hieng, the Cambodian businessman who also owns Monument Books and Toys, decided to build a rink after his four children tried out the sport in Korea.
“At first we tried skiing and liked it, and then we put the children to skate – they enjoyed it as well. After the children learned, I wanted to try too,” he said. Hieng said the new sport will provide an exotic activity for children in this tropical country.
“This is a sports activity that didn’t exist in Cambodia, and I thought it’s a good idea to get children to do this activity so that in the future Cambodia could become part of the ice-skating federation,” he added.
Although Hieng would not reveal how much it cost to build the rink and keep it running, he said a company from the United States called “Ice Rink Supply” carried out the project, which included a chiller, insulation, and a humidifier system.
Previous ice-skating ventures in the city have used white plastic as a substitute. In late 2011, Ice City Skating Rink was opened in Sovanna shopping mall, and Magic Ice at City Mall offers $2 jaunts on their slippery surface.
At Kids City, however, it’s the real deal.
A professional figure skating coach arrived from the Philippines to teach local roller- skating pros to ice-skate. Ricardo Nonato, who came here from Ice Skating Institute Asia, is currently training Cambodia’s first ice-skating coaches and will soon be giving private ice-skating lessons as well.
“The ice is much more slippery. You don’t need too much energy to push like in roller-skating,” said Nonato, who learned to ice-skate from an American coach when the first rink opened in the Philippines 14 years ago. Since then, his students had participated in figure skating competitions in Malaysia and China, he said.
So far, the only person wearing figure skates at the rink is Nonato himself – only recreational hockey skates are currently available for rent at the rink, but the company is promising to bring in figure skates soon as well.
Last week, the new rink was shared by skaters of many nationalities, ages and abilities as fast-beat songs encouraged everyone to overcome their fear and lights threw beautiful shadows down on the ice.
“I just want to learn to skate,” said Heng Kheng, a housewife. “It’s my first time on the ice. It’s fun but very difficult.”
Fifteen-year-old skater Nicole Gitobu, who is from Kenya, said she was surprised to find a rink here.
“I didn’t know if it’s real or what. I thought the ice would melt, but no,” she said. “I think it’s hard the first time, but if you get used to it, it’s fun. It’s my second time here, and I’ll come again in a few days.”
Cambodia is not the first country in the region to build an ice-skating rink. There are also rinks in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.
“We see that it’s not only kids who enjoy it, but also teenagers and adults,” said Kids City Asia’s marketing manager An Delphine. “Everybody is crazy about ice-skating.”
The ice-skating rink at Kids City is located at 162 A Sihanouk Boulevard and is open from 8 am to 10 pm seven days per week. One hour and 15 minutes of skating costs $10 for
children and $12 for adults. Private skating lessons, school trips and ice-skating shows on the rink are being planned. The rink can accommodate 50 people and it’s possible to make music requests. Children
have to be at least 5 years old to skate.