Many parents of hockey players and figure skaters throughout Middle Tennessee could probably drive to one of the two Ford Ice Center locations with their eyes closed.
Spending time at the two facilities is more than just a part of the weekly routine for families - it provides a sense of community, of belonging, and most importantly, a place for so many to pursue their passion.
But, when the world went on pause in March, Ford Ice Centers in Antioch and Bellevue put away the nets and the skates, parked the Zambonis and closed their doors for a time too. Coaches and instructors kept in touch with skaters with virtual classes and sessions, but it's just not the same without a sheet of ice.
So, as Nashville and Davidson County began a phased reopening process back in May, Ford Ice began preparations for a return.
On June 15, Bellevue reopened with limited programming and enhanced safety protocols, and Antioch did the same a week later, the best news many had heard in quite some time.
"When we told my daughter she was going back to skate a couple of weeks ago, I think it was the happiest I've ever seen her," Chet McGhee said of his 11-year-old daughter, Georgia. "She lit up like a firecracker."
Those procedures have included social and physical distancing at all times, wearing masks while not on the ice and a thorough cleaning of the facility between sessions. Considering the current circumstances, things have run rather seamlessly according to those observing things firsthand.
"I feel very comfortable with the number of people in the facility and the various precautions taken," Christine Robinson, parent of figure skater Abigail, said. "What has been done so far is great and at the right pace."
"Returning to FIC has been great," Karyn Surbrook, whose son Jaxon participates in the Scott Hamilton Skating Club, said. "We appreciate all of the safety precautions that everyone there is taking, and especially appreciate the extra time that they took before opening the facilities to be sure that everyone had the proper training and understood all of those procedures. Communication has been very thorough and clear, and we get follow-up emails frequently to make sure that we understand what they're doing to keep the skaters and their families safe."
Programming and classes are still limited, and all participants must sign an online waiver before arriving at either of the Ford Ice Centers. But for those who have made their way back to the ice, it's about so much more than just the exercise.
"My daughter loves to skate more than anything in this world, and getting her back on the ice has been therapeutic," McGhee said. "During the shutdown, the lack of social interaction she got [by missing] the classes, and just skating in general, was really difficult on her. It was sad to see her miss something so much that has become part of our normal, everyday lives for the last three years."
Today, that sense of normalcy is back, as are the skates, nets and Zambonis - all welcome sights for those who prefer to spend their time in Antioch and Bellevue.
"Our experience over the last four years at FIC has been amazing," Surbrook said. "It truly is Jaxon's home, and the people there are his extended family. We couldn't ask for a better group of coaches who truly care about all the skaters, and we're thankful that Jaxon has a great place to skate."