Phuket has recently experienced a series of very hot days over the past month, and one Saturday afternoon I got a chance to cool off (ironically over a cup of hot coffee) at Ice Arena Phuket, the only ice skating gig on the island. Humbly located right next to Villa Market in Boat Lagoon and spread over 908 sq meters & air-conditioned to the brim, THIS is the perfect rendezvous for everyone 3 years and over.
As I’m about to enter, I’m hurried in so as not to miss a beautiful performance by Nay Nay, a Thailand National Team professional figure skater. I was just in time to catch the pro gracefully speeding through several moves in the empty rink. Having only seen this on tv in Olympic games’ videos on youtube, this was a first and definitely a treat!
I then had the wonderful opportunity to have a sit-down with Yvonne Symons, the General Manager of the establishment, and she told me about her life in Bangkok. She had worked as a Prestige Accounts and Asst to Vice president PepsiCo, with the likes of Michael Jackson, Mc Hammer, Natalie Cole and Gloria Estefan to name a few, prior to her move to the island. Quite a good curriculum vitae already if you ask me, but Yvonne needs no introduction. A proud mother of an avid footballer at a nearby school, it’s safe to say there are very few like her out here who match her business acumen. She talks about working at a nearby Kid’s Club as Manager which made her fall in love with working with children, but decided on her current venture because she missed seeing her own son all day. That just melts my heart.
Now managing Ice Arena Phuket, she’s done a fantastic job creating a multi-purpose, multi-faceted entertainment complex that appeals to the community not just for basic ice skating, but also activities seamlessly attached to charity work, ice hockey classes, supply of some of the best equipment Asia in the facility’s ‘Pro shop Phuket‘ and just year-round holiday themed events all under one roof. Not only that, they make a mean cappuccino at their in-store cafe & restaurant called ‘The Champions‘. With a large variety of mouthwatering snacks and drinks to freshen you up at the sitting/viewing area while you watch your friends or kids skating down below through a massive glass wall, it seems this building has something to offer to everyone!
Yvonne then points at a wall above the glass behind me, which features jerseys of professional ice hockey players. She proudly tells me that some, to my surprise, have been signed BY those players themselves…very Hard Rock Cafe if you ask me. Except these have been gifted to her and her son by Youtube celeb Coach Jeremy and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and carry a deeper meaning for them than movie titles. Yvonne also actively organises and promotes table-top fund raisers for charities every month with the help of local parents and anyone who wants to get involved. She doesn’t stop there. Bringing together ice hockey enthusiasts from all over Phuket, Yvonne has resulted in a program at the facility which trains the young and old to play the popular sport here. All safety equipment from helmets to knee pads are provided so if you don’t bring your own when you stop by, she’s got that covered! International schools all over the island and Phuketians in general have all set up programs, and camps crossing international waters will soon be introduced. Do you see where i’m going with this? The community created by Yvonne and her team is absolutely massive…it’s basically your typical massive extended family, but without the drama!
Speaking of drama, I mean family ;), Christmas and New Years is just around the corner. And of course, Yvonne and her crew never disappoints. December 27th will see a New Year Themed Party, featuring ice skating, gifts, several performances by professionals, prizes and photos with Santa. You coming?