Taking ice skating to the next level | Local News
There’s a lot of excitement ahead of this week’s Minnesota Hockey Day in Mankato.
Mankato-North Mankato is passionate about hockey and skating, enjoying the high level Division I played by the Mavs, strong youth hockey programs and an active figure skating club.
Many rinks are available for young and old, including North Mankato’s new Spring Lake Park Rink and Warm-up House and a number of neighborhood rinks in both towns.
But if the locals of the Mankato region want to stay among the skating elite, they might have to take note of some guys from Warroad.
There were all sorts of ways to get through the boredom of the 2020-21 pandemic shutdown, but Jared Olafson, his brother and a friend coped with it like real Scandinavians living a few miles south of the border Canadian: they set out to build a bigger, better skating rink.
They all had homemade ice rinks in their backyards and decided to join them with a skating rink, laying out a route on the River Warroad. Soon hundreds of residents were showing up to play hockey, skate and curl.
This year, residents have invested in adding to the path, doubling it in length. Now measuring over 5 miles, the Riverbend Skate Path along the Warroad River is the world record holder for longest skating path, breaking Vermont’s previous record.
The path is maintained by volunteers and free to use. Donations have arrived, enabling the construction of concession stands and mobile homes along the way.
Mankato-North Mankato could aspire to an impressive skating rink, but there are challenges to overcome. First of all, a path on our Minnesota River is not feasible. And while Warroad is naturally freezing cold in the winter, an on-land skating rink in Mankato might need some refrigeration to be available all winter.
But there are plenty of chilled examples in the Twin Cities area.
The Roseville OVAL has its own honors. It is the largest continuous outdoor refrigerated ice slab in North America at 110,000 square feet. Using over 800 tons of refrigeration, it also has a better price to build and maintain.
Maple Grove has an 810-foot skating loop in its Central Park, and other metropolitan and remote cities have a variety of chilled and natural skating tracks and loops.
A skating rink through Sibley Park, with perhaps an ice rink included, would be impressive. Linked to the Kiwanis Holiday Lights, this would be a major draw.
Spring Lake Park in North Mankato not only has the existing skating rink, but also the benefit of Spring Lake, which has been used for skating in the past. And it connects via a channel to the nearby Hiniker Pond.
The Red Jacket Trail, or any of the other biking or walking trails, could be converted into a skating trail in the winter.
Skating tracks are invariably flat, but that doesn’t mean we can’t mix it up a bit.
You have to admit, a skating rink using the Main Street hill would bring a whole new level of excitement to the sport. Ok, maybe there should be some sort of safety line that skaters can hold on to on the way down to control their speed, but that could work.
More than a century ago, local children regularly rode bobsleds down Main Street to the train depot. Granted, the practice was officially banned by the city due to numerous concussions, broken bones, and unfortunate interactions with pedestrians — but I bet they had a blast while it lasted.
Local skating enthusiasts could definitely come up with a Mankato skating rink that would be a destination. We can’t let the hardy souls of Warroad have any fun.
Tim Krohn can be reached at [email protected] or 507-720-1300.