This may be the last winter that the hockey and skating rinks by Crooked Lake Elementary School in Andover are open.
The Andover Parks and Recreation Commission Feb. 21 tabled any action until its April meeting so it can consider the ramifications of this decision. The city may end up constructing new hockey rinks at another city park in southwest Andover, but it would still be down one warming house unless it can find the funds to build a new one.
Maintaining the rinks by Crooked Lake School has been a problem for the city for quite some time, said Todd Haas, assistant public works director.
There is limited space to store snow and it seems to end up on the skating rink, the water run-off from melting snow does not drain very well and access to the site for maintenance crews, he said.
Public works crews that maintain the ice can tell how much rinks are being used based on how clean the ice is between times they maintain it, and the Crooked Lake rinks do not appear to be used that much except by the Andover Huskies Youth Hockey Association, Haas said.
Mike Antilla, ice director and outdoor rink coordinator for the hockey association, said the quality of the Crooked Lake School rinks are not as good as others. When they are practicing at the rinks west of Andover City Hall, there are always others around playing pick-up games. At the Crooked Lake School rinks, there are may be two extra cars, he said.
That is not to say the rinks are not used by the general public. Todd Norholm of Andover recently started coming to the rink. He grew up playing hockey and being in warming houses, so it’s a foreign concept to him that they would be closing this rink.
When a reporter stopped by the rink on three different occasions over the past week there were always a few people skating.
Andover Huskies Youth Hockey Association President Mark Chevalier told the city in a Feb. 21 email that the hockey association board understands the challenges the city faces with ice quality at Crooked Lake School, but he said the association and community depend on city operated rinks to provide open skating and open hockey for people of all ages.
The association’s mite teams practice two to three times a week at Crooked Lake School, by Andover City Hall and Prairie Knoll Park, according to coach Jeff Martin.
This is Martin’s fifth year coaching mites for the youth hockey association and he thinks it would be nice to keep this facility open. Even though he had to cancel practice at the Crooked Lake School rink this past Monday because of the impact the brief mild temperatures, he still saw four other people from the community skating, Martin said.
“This is where many of our youth start skating and begin their love of the game,” Chevalier said in talking about outdoor rinks.
The city thought about closing the two Crooked Lake School rinks a few years ago at the same time it was planning to get rid of the two rinks at Hawk Ridge Park, but the Andover City Council chose to keep the Hawk Ridge Park rinks after the neighborhood asked for it.
Two new rinks and a warming house were constructed west of city hall and the Crooked Lake rinks remained open. The Hawk Ridge rinks were moved farther east to make way for the new soccer fields, but a warming house was not constructed.
Councilmember Tony Howard was president of the Andover Huskies Youth Hockey Association and not on the council when the new rinks and warming house by city hall were being constructed.
Howard said when they were planning for this project, they knew that the rinks by Crooked Lake School would eventually get shut down. He always hates to see rinks close, but thinks it is the best decision. This rink is used, but not as much as it used to be, according to Howard.
“I’d assume not spending taxpayers dollars when we kind of replaced the facility,” Howard said.
Want a warming house
Chevalier said the hockey association board thinks relocating practices from Crooked Lake School to the rinks at Hawk Ridge Park in northern Andover could be an equitable solution as long as the city gets a better warming house there.
The association also wants the city to consider moving the hockey boards from Crooked Lake School to another park in the southwest portion of Andover so residents in this region have skating and hockey rinks nearby. It would like a warming house at the new location as well.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mark Miskowiec grew up skating and knows how nice it is to have a warming house near an outdoor rink.
“It’s a pretty big leap to say let’s move this now without knowing what’s going to be used for a warming house later,” he said.
A trailer is the only area that people have to change and Chevalier said that would be a tight fit if Crooked Lake School practices are relocated to Hawk Ridge. When the mite teams practice in the evening, there are two teams using the warming house at one time during change-over. There could be 30 children and 30 parents at one time, he said.
The Crooked Lake School warming house is large enough, Chevalier said, but that is the school’s property.
Crooked Lake School would continue using this building for storage, said Principal Cheryl Kortuem.
How the rinks got there
The hockey rink, skating rink and warming house were part of a larger project led by the school’s parent-teacher organization in the early 1980s that included three baseball fields, a football and soccer field and a sledding hill.
Wayne and Rosie Davis, who still near live the school, were heavily involved at the time the project started in 1981 or 1982.
The school was built in 1968. In the early 1980s, Wayne Davis said there was a sewer settling pond in this area that was surrounded by a chain link fence, and the PTO wanted to fix up the area.
After getting all the necessary approvals from the government agencies, the PTO did some fund-raisers to get this project started. It took a couple of years to grade the property and get the new amenities in, Wayne said.
The original idea was to put benches around the skating rink, he said, but somebody brought up the idea of a warming house. The hockey rink boards came a couple of years later.
Wayne and his neighbor maintained the rinks for a couple more years before the city’s public works crews agreed to take over.
“I’d hate to see us lose (the rinks),” Wayne said.
Kortuem said the rink used to be utilized by the school’s physical education classes and by the Anoka-Hennepin Community Education for after school programming.
Before city hall was built, Crooked Lake School used to be the center of the community, she said.
Today, students do not skate during the 25-minute recess because there is not enough time, Kortuem said.
The only time the school schedules skating time is for one hour every Valentine’s Day for the fourth-graders, she said.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]