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Feeling overheated on a summer Sunday? Must be time to skate

While most Farmingtonites were sweating out the hot temperatures over the weekend, a few folks found a spot to stay cool - maybe even cold - last Sunday. They headed to the Schmitz-Maki Ice Arena and laced up their skates.

During July, the city of Farmington is offering ice skating lessons and open skates at the arena on Sundays. The lessons require pre-registration, but the open skates are held every Sunday through the end of the month.

It's been about five years since the city has provided summer ice at the Schmitz-Maki Arena, parks and recreation director Randy Distad said. There were some problems with the old cooling system that limited the ability to make ice, but that was all fixed when the cooling system was replaced last summer.

That means the city can now offer lessons and skills courses. Instructor Janelle Wall has a pretty full day on Sundays, with youth open hockey starting at 11:30 a.m., adult open hockey ending at 9:30 p.m., and a whole day of skating and instructing in between.

This is the first time she's taught summer lessons here. Like schoolwork, kids tend to lose some skills when they don't practice during the off season. Holding summer lessons helps skaters practice their skills and maybe even learn some new ones.

"Plus, it's kind of fun to go in the cold ice rink when it's really hot out," Wall said.

Wall originally had five categories of skate classes set up - a few hockey camps, a few private lessons for figure skaters and a course for beginners. The program was set up late in the spring, so it was omitted from the parks and recreation booklet that is sent out to homes. Wall sent flyers home with school kids and sent flyers to the homes of kids in the city's existing skating programs. It was posted on the city's website, as well.

When Sunday rolled around, Wall had to combine a few of the individual programs because the numbers were a little low side. But the open skate times drew plenty of participants.

"At the open skate there were close to 30 kids, which was good," Wall said. "For lessons, I didn't know what to expect. There weren't any classes that were cancelled but there were a few that got shuffled around."

Wall deliberately chose Sunday as the day to kick off the summer skate program because she wanted a day when families could be around and a day of the week that was less busy for them. Plus, she wanted to be able to offer a four-week program and scheduling conflicts limited other days to only three weeks.

Wall teaches most of the classes herself, with the help of a couple of extra instructors. Once a competitive figure skater, she started teaching 20 years ago. A few years back, she started playing hockey just so she could master and eventually teach those skills, as well. Since the city's program is seen as a feeder program for groups like the Farmington Youth Hockey Association, Wall stays in contact with those coaches to make sure she's teaching the skills they want their skaters to know.

"I reach out to a lot of hockey coaches to make sure my knowledge and skill set is good for them, to make sure I'm teaching (the kids) what they want me to teach," she said.

Open skate times

Wall isn't taking any new students for the skating lessons, but anyone can still go over to the arena and get a little ice time during July. Open skate times include:

Youth open hockey: ages 14-17, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., $5 per session;

Public skate: all ages, hockey or figure skaters, 2:45 to 4:15 p.m., $4 per session;

Open moves and free: 6:30 to 7:45 p.m., $6 per session;

Adult open hockey: 8 to 9:30 p.m., $6 per session.

All hockey players, in lessons or open skates, are required to wear helmets and must provide their own equipment.

Providing ice time for the community is something Wall feels is important.

"We work for the city and we're here for the kids. Everybody should be able to skate. It's not something that just people with money can do," she said.

The summer skating program ends Sunday, July 31. Once it is over, the city will take out the ice, paint the floors and get ready for the next skating season.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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