NORTH MANKATO — The agonizingly long cold stretch gripping the area is good for at least one thing: firming up ice on all the outdoor rinks in the area.

Several sheets in Mankato and North Mankato are already sufficiently glazed, with the rest expected to be smoothed over within the next couple of weeks.

Both hockey rinks in Spring Lake Park and a sheet in Wheeler Park in North Mankato, along with a hockey rink each in Mankato’s Thomas, Alexander and Stoltzman (near West High School) parks already were open to skaters Tuesday.

Duane Rader, water superintendent and parks coordinator with the city of North Mankato, said he expects sheets at King Arthur, Walter S. Farm and Pleasant View parks to be ready by the end of this week.

“We’ll be making ice constantly as long as the weather continues to be below freezing,” he said. “So it could be some good skating weather for the next few weeks.”

Mankato, meanwhile, is readying more sheets at Highland and F.A. Buscher parks by the end of this week, said Ashley Steevens, superintendent of parks and open spaces. Another rink established by a volunteer is open in Dotson Park.

“With the cold temps we were ready to do over nights and during the day to build those up,” Steevens said.

Rinks at Erlandson Park and a second sheet at Alexander Park will then be iced over by the end of the following week.

Both city officials said they’d been hearing inquiries from residents anxious to skate or play hockey at the outdoor sheets.

Tuesday’s windy conditions might’ve kept most skaters away from the open rinks, which meant Carter Hemstock had all of Spring Lake Park’s ice to himself late Tuesday morning. The park has two new ice sheets with concrete bases, making is easier for ice to form.

The Gustavus Adolphus student from North Mankato said he’d been eager to shoot some pucks, so was glad to see the ice was in good condition.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” he said. “It’s just tough because it’s hard to find other people out here, especially when it’s so cold. The wind’s not so nice, but it’s not too bad if you keep moving.”

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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