Ice rinks ready? Not snow fastWinter has more than arrived, but if you’ve already laced up those blades to hit the outdoor ice you’ll have to keep those skate guards on for just a few more days.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Winter has more than arrived, but if you’ve already laced up those blades to hit the outdoor ice you’ll have to keep those skate guards on for just a few more days.
Woodbury’s 12 ice rinks, at seven locations, will not officially open until Dec. 26 due to the heavy snowfall that took place earlier this month.
“It is very disappointing that the rinks aren’t open,” Parks and Recreation specialist Reed Smidt said. “This season has been one of the most challenging years to get ice skating rinks prepared because the snowstorms have slowed the process down and it’s been difficult to get the rinks flooded and ready for skating.”
Parks crews were out last Thursday cleaning and flooding the rinks, a few weeks later than the temperatures have dictated because of the significant impact the recent snowstorm had on the rink locations and the workload of the parks staff.
“Snow always slows down the maintenance of the rinks,” Smidt said. “But this past snow basically put the rink preparations on hold while our parks crew worked on clearing out roads, walking paths and parking lots.”
In a normal year, Woodbury’s parks crews begin cleaning off and flooding the rinks early in December as soon as the weather stays below freezing.
Smidt said it is ideal to have temperatures below 20 degrees for at least two weeks before the rinks open.
Previously, the city looked into the option of implementing outdoor refrigerated ice rinks, which would allow the ice to remain frozen in warmer temperatures and through longer periods of the winter. However, this proposal has taken a backseat at the moment.
“I know we would love to have at least one refrigerated rink in the city,” Smidt said. “I’m guessing this will happen at some point, but right now there is no set plan.”
The rinks are flooded by laying water over the ice, with a large water hose, to form a thick and smooth base layer. Once the base layer is frozen, the rinks are ready for skaters.
Continued maintenance, daily, of the rinks includes sweeping, shaving and cleaning the ice with an outdoor Zamboni.
However, when a snowstorm hits, such as the one that arrived in the Twin Cities on Dec. 11, the city parks crews must put the ice rinks on hold.
Since the parks staff are responsible for snow removal on park roads, walking and bike paths and city building parking lots, maintaining the ice rinks becomes less of a priority.
“Clearing snow is the first priority, especially walking trails that are main school routes for children,” Smidt said. “The outdoor rinks are the last priority, but we know the importance they have to residents and we do what we can to get them cleared and ready for skating following a snow storm.”
Smidt said this year has been very difficult in terms of getting the rinks ready because the rinks weren’t even ready prior to the Dec. 11 snowstorm.
Once a snowstorm blows through, the Parks crews start cleaning off the ice and start the maintenance process.
Enjoying the ice
Ice skating on Woodbury’s 12 ice rinks, both hockey and pleasure, is a very popular wintertime activity for families and friends alike, Smidt said.
On average, Woodbury’s ice rinks see between 20 and 30 people any given weekend. However, on busy weekends certain parks can see as many at 70 people, Smidt said.
Last year, Woodbury’s busiest ice skating day was at Kargel Park when over 200 people took to the ice.
“It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter,” Smidt said. “Plus, there are rinks located throughout Woodbury and it’s easy for families to utilize them on a daily basis.”