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Although the numbers are down from 10 years ago, Ted Kronschnabel said there is still plenty of outdoor skating in West St. Paul. He is a director of the Sibley Area Youth Hockey Association, where the mites and mini-mite players even on cold nights in January and February tried to skate outdoors at least once a week at Harmon Park. “They really enjoy it because it’s a new experience every time,” he said.
Demand just not there
But there are plenty of troubling signs for outdoor skating. In Minnetonka, Steen Erickson has worked as a city ice-rink volunteer for seven years, extending the hours at nearby Boulder Creek Park when skaters were plentiful. Now, “it’s just not that way,” he said of the demand. “My going down to the ice warming house to open [it], it’s been less this year than ever before,” Erickson added.
Then there is Cottage Grove, where the city closed four outdoor skating rinks seven years ago. Though there has recently been somewhat of an uptick in skaters, “it’s still certainly not what it was maybe 15-20 years ago,” said Zac Dockter, the city’s park and recreation director.
For some, the answer is to simply go outside — and not be intimidated by the weather.
Chad Miller has both a back-yard rink and a pond rink at his home in Cottage Grove, and he’s frustrated that other hockey parents do not let their children skate outdoors.
“People think I’m crazy sending my kids out in 15-below weather,” he said. But “if you’re active, you’re moving and don’t have a lot of exposed skin, [you’re actually] going to get hot.”
Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388