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Pine Island finds permanent home for ice rinks, waiting for more chilly weather to fill them

Cities in the Rochester area are preparing to fill their ice rinks as Minnesota delves into winter.

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The smaller of Pine Island's two ice rinks sits unfilled, covered with fresh snow on the west side of the Pine Island Cheese Factory building near the city's pickleball courts on Nov. 30, 2022.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin
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PINE ISLAND — Preparations for skating rinks are underway around the region, including in Pine Island, where a new, permanent location has been established for the city's two rinks. Area cities are still waiting for colder weather to fill their rinks, but other preparations have moved ahead.

The venue for Pine Island's two skating rinks has changed several times over the past few years, but this year, the boards for the main rink are up on the city's new pickleball courts west of the Pine Island Cheese Factory building. A figure skating rink for smaller kids sits on a concrete slab between the building and the courts.

"We had some volunteers in our Public Works Department put up our boards around the rink, and then the local football team helped to lay the protective tarp down," said Steven Scheevel, Pine Island's deputy city administrator. "We're just waiting on some colder temps to go ahead and flood that rink."

The city is also installing lights around the pickleball courts so that the rinks can stay open into winter's dark evenings. The city's intent is to make the pickleball courts the ice rink's permanent home.

"The idea of the rink was considered when putting in the pickleball courts, that it would be used for both going forward," Scheevel said. "There's been talk of a warming house in the future and things like that to make it much more of a permanent structure, but as of right now, it's still all temporary boarding and whatnot."

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Next winter, the city also wants to operate a rent-a-skate program much like its current rent-a-bike program.

"We are taking skate donations this year in hopes of getting a bit of a stockpile," Scheevel said. "That's something I'm really excited about, and we'll get people maybe an opportunity who can't afford skates or don't have skates or just want to try — it's an option for them."

With filling the rink on hold until temperatures stay consistently low, Scheevel said there isn't an estimated opening day yet, and the city hasn't determined what hours the rinks will be open.

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Pine Island's large ice rink is yet to be filled on Nov. 30, 2022. It's located off of Main Street on the city's new pickleball courts.
Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin

Here's how other municipal ice rinks in Rochester's surrounding communities are coming along.

In Zumbrota, the city's volunteer firefighters have set up the rink's boards in Covered Bridge Park, said Zumbrota City Administrator Brian Grudem. He anticipates that volunteers will begin filling the rink next week when more consistently cold temperatures arrive. Early to mid-December is the average time when an ice rink can be ready, Grudem said.

"It's gotten later and later through the years," Grudem said. "But now it's getting to be about average, you know, because we get these warm spells in the middle here."

A warming house will be available near Zumbrota's ice rink, Grudem said, and donated skates, hockey sticks and pucks will be available there for community members to borrow.

Stewartville is also waiting for a true cold spell before the city can fill its pleasure rink in Meadow Park and the hockey rink in Florence Park.

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"It's supposed to be 40 on Friday, or in the 40s," said Sean Hale, Stewartville Public Works director. "And we'd lose everything we gain if we started."

Hale said the city hired its rink attendants this week, so when the ice is down, those employees are ready to go.

And in Byron, it's also a waiting game. Deputy Clerk Kelli Cheney said the city is aiming to start filling the rink — located at 114 8th St. NE, north of the Byron Cemetery — next week, if the weather allows.

    Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's region reporter, covering the greater Rochester area. Before joining the Post Bulletin in 2022, she attended Kansas State University and served as an editor for the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian, and news director for Wildcat 91.9, K-State's student radio station. Readers can reach Dené at ddryden@postbulletin.com.
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