Last year nearly 25,000 people raced, glided and twirled gracefully—or lurched, stumbled and fell dramatically—across the ice of 12 outdoor ice-skating rinks managed by the city of Edina. Whether you are a graceful glider or in the stumbling group, you might be interested to know what goes into getting those rinks ready for the season and maintaining them each day throughout the winter. The first thing to know is that it starts early—very early.
Every morning— seven days a week—Marshall Syvertsen and the other park maintenance folks are out in the parks by 4 a.m. to get the ice ready. “We often have skate-able ice before daylight,” Syvertsen says. But you can’t get on it before 9 a.m. on Saturdays when open skate starts, Sundays at 1 p.m. and weekdays at 4 p.m.
The process also starts early in the year. As soon as weather permits, park maintenance folks start “making base” or getting the ground saturated and ready to freeze. That can begin as early as Thanksgiving and depends on the daytime temperatures. The rinks open for use sometime in December, depending on the weather, and close sometime in February. At each park one person uses a fire hose to put down layer upon layer of ice. It takes patience, because if you try to do too much too fast, you get air pockets.
“You don’t want air pockets in the layers,” Syvertsen says. “Because a skate will cut right through those.” And, obviously, whether you are an accomplished veteran or a kid learning how to skate, consistent ice and quality control are serious safety concerns.
Photo by Jake Omodt
After the rinks are ready for daily use, that 4 a.m. routine has the workers adding water and using things like a power broom and an ice sweeper to get the surface right. They work in two-person teams. Two workers get one rink ready then they split up and get two more ready—all before you’ve finished your second cup of coffee.
Edina rinks are used by skaters from all over the metro area, according to Syvertsen, because they have a reputation for being “good ice.” And celebrity sightings aren’t unheard of either. In February of 2019, Olympic medalist and World and U.S. Champion figure skater Michelle Kwan took to the ice at Walnut Ridge Park. So, not just good ice, world class ice!
All 12 locations have both a hockey rink and a skating rink. Tiffany Bushland, who is the recreation supervisor for the parks says that the city rinks also host four-person hockey team competition. The teams get scheduled time on the ice on Saturday mornings. If you’re interested you can find more info on the city website (edinamn.gov/249/parks-recreation) under the fall/winter activities registration tab.
The Edina Hockey Association teams also use the rinks for practice throughout the week. And Bushland organizes a family skate event in early January at Pamela Park—this year it’s on January 10 from 6–8 p.m. There will be a DJ, free glow sticks and hot chocolate while supplies last. “Last year we had 75 people,” Bushland says.
Photo by Debbie Townsend
With all that activity, it’s easy to see why the park maintenance staff works seven days a week. Syvertsen says keeping the rinks in top shape is hard work, but he likes the job.
“You have a real sense of pride,” he says. “Because it’s your creation.”