Dressed in a pair of khaki shorts, Minneapolis park worker Sean Linden got up hours before sunrise on Thursday to work on the ice rink at McRae Park in south Minneapolis.

There's not much to see, much less to skate on. The rink is but a brittle crust of ice that Linden has been trying to rebuild since last weekend, when rains dashed a good chunk of his work. And with the forecast over the next few days sniffing 50 degrees, the 30-year-old's first winter with the Park Board has been a Sisyphean exercise in patience.

Unusually warm weather since Thanksgiving means Minneapolitans eager to break out their skates are going to have to wait for Mother Nature to cooperate.

The Park Board needs seven to 10 days of below-freezing temperatures to create skating surfaces. It's a forecast that's not in the cards before the end of the year, so the earliest the city's neighborhood park ice rinks can open, optimistically, is January. St. Paul parks have the exact same problem.

"Your average person thinks that just because it got below freezing we should have a nice rink within a couple of days. There's a lot more variables that go into it," said Becky Braun, the Park Board's assistant director of asset management. "We build in super small layers. ... There is science behind putting the correct amount of water out for the correct amount of frost in the ground, and the correct temperature."

Ryan Flanders, recreation supervisor for Logan Park in northeast Minneapolis, is as gung-ho as anyone about doing winter right, with hot cocoa in the warming room and winter wonderland lights strung over the outdoor pavilion. A lifelong hockey player who runs three rinks at Logan, he's already hired skating instructors for the neighborhood kids; they're just waiting to get started.

Flanders has vivid memories of tearing up the ice at Sibley Park with his twin brother every day over winter break.

"That was when we were growing up," he said. "And last year when we had to close in mid-January [when a stretch of 40-degree weather made a puddle of everything], I was like: 'Oh, my god, what is this?'"

With their internal clocks signaling the start of broomball season, Alysse Thibodeau's rec league group text fires up when they start to see even the minutiae of progress at McRae. Whenever one person catches a park worker putting up boards or spraying down the field, the whole team gets the news.

They schedule babysitters around games, make a whole family event out of the city tournament in February and use broomball to help maintain friendships dating back to their college days at the University of Minnesota, said Thibodeau.

"The first [game] for us is now on the 7th of January, so we usually would have had at least one game by then, if not two," she said. Her team can't wait to play, said Thibodeau, who suspects the Park Board feels the same way because they'll have to refund players if the season is cut too short.

Evan Bretzman, who lives two blocks away from the rink at Lyndale Farmstead Park in south Minneapolis, said his family hasn't been able to skate on Christmas or New Year's Day — a former tradition — for a few years now. And when his broomball team fails to meet, that's less predictable business for Indeed Brewing, which partially sponsors the team's uniforms in return for hosting a dedicated bevy of customers each week after their games at Logan Park.

"One of the reasons you live in Minnesota is to have seasons," Bretzman said. "Thirty-five degrees is a temperature where you're not just going to go out and play basketball. And it's not cold enough where you can do a lot of these [winter] sports, and so everyone seems to stay at home, unfortunately."

Lake ice should be 4 inches thick to walk on and 9 inches for snow removal equipment to get the ice in shape for skating, Braun said. This week there's about 5 inches on Lake of the Isles and 2 inches on Powderhorn Lake, which has more of a current thanks to a winter aeration system that provides oxygen for fish.