Skating rinks are buildings or outdoor areas in which a flat, smooth, horizontal surface has been created and maintained for the purpose of ice skating or roller skating. Outdoors, ice rinks are created when bodies of water, either natural or man-made, freeze solid enough to support skaters. Indoor ice rinks have an area, usually oval-shaped, set apart, refrigerated, and covered with thin sheets of water that turn to smooth ice when applied. In contrast, roller skating rinks are designed with a smooth, hard, dry surface which accommodates the rubber wheels of roller skates. Outdoor roller skating areas might be anything from a sidewalk to a porch or a parking lot.
Ice skating rinks were originally known simply as the local river, pond, or lake on which people took to ice skating. The natural ice skating rinks began as necessities for inhabitants of Russia, Northern Europe, and the Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden. Over the years, beginning as early as the ninth century, skates were invented and perfected, first using stone, then wood, and ultimately, steel. In the early 19th century, steel skates were strapped to one's shoes or boots and people took to skating through town on frozen canals and rivers.
In the 1860s, figure skating was born when a few ambitious ice skaters combined skating with music. By the 1880s, ice skating became a racing sport as Scandinavians sought diversion to pass the long winter months. Indoor refrigerated ice skating rinks were introduced in 1912, and before long, indoor rinks were being designed and perfected in other areas. Today, thanks to refrigeration, indoor ice rinks can be found even in the hottest climates.
In contrast, roller skating rinks were born much later. Roller skating began as a copycat of ice skating when wooden spools were first used as wheels in the 18th century. The mid 19th century found German bar maids serving customers on roller skates, and in 1902, the Chicago Coliseum opened its doors as the first indoor roller skating facility. In the 1970s, when roller skating met disco, thousands of roller skating rinks sprang up around the world.