The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 8, 2012

Mankato parks workers aren't giving up on skating rinks

MANKATO — It’s been a frustrating winter for people who like to skate on outdoor rinks and for the people who create them, but Mankato parks workers aren’t yet ready to throw in the towel and open the municipal swimming pool instead.

“We haven’t given up the ghost yet, I’ll tell you that,” said Mankato Public Works Director Mark Knoff. “We’re kind of looking at it from week to week.”

The city usually shoots to have sheets of ice in place for school kids on their Christmas break, and a cold snap that arrived on Dec. 4 got the process started. Temperatures stayed below freezing for five days, and layers of ice where being built on Mankato’s five sheets of outdoor ice.

“Then all of a sudden it was like spring,” Knoff said.

The cold stretch was followed by a 55-degree high on Dec. 9 and 16 days over the rest of the month where high temperatures ranged from 36 to 50.

The first eight days of January brought more of the same.

Knoff said he knows how much exercise and recreation the rinks provide for a substantial chunk of the population.

“Our goal is still to get some  ice,” he said.

On the city’s three dirt-bottom rinks, it takes as long as two weeks of cold weather to get the multiple layers of ice down that are necessary for quality ice, according to Knoff. The process is a bit quicker on the paved rinks, and those rinks are the ones that hold the most hope for good ice in the second half of this winter.

The paved rink at the corner of Stoltzman Road and Pleasant Street near Mankato West High School has been joined this season by a paved rink in Thomas Park near East High.

The pavement is painted white, which reflects the sun rather than absorbing it. That becomes particularly important in the latter end of February, when the strengthening sunlight can wreck ice even when air temperatures remain below freezing, he said.

While the winter has made the rink-raising part of his job a challenge, the wimpy weather has a bright side for a public works director, too: “I’m not complaining from the other hat I’m wearing, which is the snow-plowing.”

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