The Coolest Places in the County
By Alex Cantatore
A plan quickly formed for Modesto on Ice, and potential sites for an ice rink were quickly assessed — and shot down. No option seemed to mesh with the Murrays’ vision for an easily accessible, family-friendly, downtown rink that could benefit local businesses.
From the beginning, Modesto on Ice targeted the Modesto Centre Plaza parking lot. The space wasn’t available, however, until Modesto Downtown Planning Manager Josh Bridegroom got involved.
Once Modesto Centre Plaza became an option, the Murrays knew they had found the site for Modesto on Ice. With an ice rink to redirect some traffic from the mall and support downtown businesses, perhaps downtown could soon regain its reputation as a safe, lively, fun place for families.
Jerome Murray muses about the possibilities. Families could grab a meal, go skating, and see a movie, all in one area. Or kids could skate while parents enjoy a romantic dinner just steps away.
“I have three daughters,” Murray said. “I would feel comfortable leaving them for 90 minutes while we grabbed dinner.”
Though it’s just the rink’s first year, Murray says it will be the “real deal” — a 70 by 100 foot rink, capable of holding 200 skaters at a time. The fully tented rink will feature a snack shack, music, and holiday lighting. Birthday parties are already being booked for the party tents, and both fully private ice time and catering are available for company parties.
The rink will also offer a region first — online ticket sales, to ensure skaters will be able to take to the ice when they arrive. Modesto on Ice estimates about 30,000 of those skaters will visit the rink this year, with another 20,000 to 30,000 friends and family members on-hand to watch.
“The community response has just been overwhelmingly positive,” Andrea Murray said.
The community has already endorsed Turlock’s Fields of Ice, which has its roots in the region’s strong agricultural heritage. Now in its third season, Fields of Ice grew from a successful pumpkin patch and corn maze started by RAM Farms owners Ron and Karen Macedo.
Ron Macedo had been growing pumpkins for years on Daubenburger Road, before he even thought of turning it into an attraction. But one year he spent $500 on Halloween decorations, found on Craigslist — without telling his wife.
“She hollered at me after,” Ron Macedo says with a laugh.
But that pumpkin patch grew in popularity. And when he was forced to rotate his crop, he thought, “Why not plant corn? Why not make a corn maze?”
“You could see how Turlock was starved for activities, especially for the teenagers,” Karen Macedo said.
After seeing the success of their seasonal corn maze, Ron and Karen Macedo decided to expand into the Christmas Tree business, offering the finest hand-cut trees. An ice skating rink would be the perfect compliment, they thought.
In that first year, three years ago, the Macedos put everything they had into a modestly sized rink.
“I said, ‘That’s all the chips I have,’” Ron Macedo said.
Fortunately, the rink was a huge hit. The rink doubled in size after that first year to its current, 80 by 120 foot size, capable of holding 200 skaters.
Fields of Ice attracted 32,000 skaters over its 8 week run last year. Add in those who didn’t skate, and about 50,000 people visited the rink. The rink was the No. 1 spot for selfies in Turlock last year, attracting visitors from outside the county, hosting hundreds of birthdays, and even one engagement.
The Macedos expect they may attract even more skaters this year, with a new tent that covers two-thirds of the rink. That tent will protect skaters and the ice, making a better skating surface regardless of the weather.
The rink will also offer extended hours this year, open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. An improved lighting and sound system will provide a better experience for skaters — while allowing less sound to leak out for neighbors to year.
Operating these rinks is a big commitment from both the Macedo and Murray families, who will spend all day, every day out at the rinks. The Murray’s daughters will even pitch in — though the youngest asked to be paid
in hot cocoa.
The hard work is all worth it when these rink owners see the happy faces of skaters out on the ice.
“That’s the reward of it to me,” Andrea Murray said. “I just keep that vision of the kids happy out there, and it’s all worth it.”
Both rinks will be open from Nov. 21 through Jan. 18.
Fields of Ice, located at 716 N. Daubenberger Rd., Turlock, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. New skating sessions begin every two hours.
Modesto on Ice, located at the intersection of K and 11th streets in Modesto, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on
holidays, school breaks, Fridays, and Saturdays, and from 2 to 8:30 p.m. on other days. New skating sessions begin
every 90 minutes.