Warm winter weather keeps outdoor rinks closed
The chances Farmington's outdoor ice skating rinks will be ready by the time kids are out of school on the holiday break can be summed up in one little word: Iffy.
It's really up to Mother Nature whether the temperatures will stay below freezing for several days and nights in a row. If that happens, there's a chance the city of Farmington will be able to flood some rinks by this weekend, but right now, parks and recreation supervisor Randy Distad isn't sure when any of the city's outdoor rinks might be available.
The outdoor hockey rinks and pleasure rinks were supposed to have been ready for skaters last Friday. However, with temperatures edging over the 40-degree mark over the weekend, Distad didn't see any point in trying tox flood rinks. With the recent string of warm weather., the ground where the rinks have been planned isn't as frozen as it should be to sustain rinks.
The city started to flood rinks a few weeks back, Distad said, and planned to have them ready to open Dec. 16. Unfortunately, all of the progress that had been made literally melted right into the ground when the temperatures warmed. What was left was washed away with last week's rain.
"When you don't have much of a base to begin with, it can make that (ice) disappear pretty quickly," Distad said.
The city provides three sheets of outdoor hockey ice and six sheets of pleasure skating ice. The hockey ice is used by the Farmington Hockey Association on occasion. At this point, FHA president Tom Flanagan said, the youth programs are just getting going, so they haven't needed the outdoor ice yet. In most cases, the teams rent ice in Farmington, Lakeville, Hastings, South St. Paul or even Faribault, so the teams that have been practicing have been able to get onto ice. It's mostly the younger players who use the outdoor rinks, Flanagan said.
However, hockey players of all ages get in extra skating and skills practice playing what Flanagan calls "pond hockey" on the outdoor ice. For those general skills, and the pure exercise of skating, the outdoor hockey rinks are ideal.
"The kids spend tons of time on that outdoor ice," Flanagan said. "Them and their buddies, after school or on weekends, just playing hockey. There's a lot of time being spent out there
"It's all up to Mother Nature at this point. The city and the hockey association can't control that, but once that ice is available, we'll definitely be on it."
Things seem to be turning around this week. If the weather projections hold true and Farmington gets the string of below-freezing temperatures it needs the rinks could be ready in just a few days. The city has an overnight employee who floods rinks during those hours, which Distad said helps to get the ice ready sooner. Flooding at night also means the city does not have to worry about people wanting to get onto the ice while the ice is being built.
Each tank used to flood the rinks holds about 500 gallons of water. One full tank is applied for each layer of ice. There is a cost associated with both the staff time and the water used to flood the rinks, so Distad was willing to wait until the ground was frozen enough to get started again without the water seeping into the ground.
Distad was optimistic there could be some ice before the end of the holiday break.
"If we get the teens overnight and the 20s during the day, we could have ice ready in four to five working days. We're hoping this next week will be cooperative. It would be nice to have those rinks ready for the kids and families to skate on while they're out of school," Distad said.