Long Prairie’s very own Ice Skating Rink: Hot chocolate and a warming house welcome skaters during the winter season!
Friday, April 08, 2022
The new, open-door ice skating rink and hockey arena that opened in Long Prairie in December 2021 is proving to be popular with the residents of the city.
With a capacity of around 150-200 skaters, the 80-feet by 155-feet rink was constructed last year and will increase in size next year to 100 -feet by 200 -feet. It saw skating enthusiasts of all ages enjoying the facility. The rink is proposed to be kept open between December through February of every year, …- just the right time for some ice skating.
Long Prairie: A legacy of ice skating
This is not the first skating rink that exists in Long Prairie. Jeff Lucas, a resident of the city and one of its keen historians states that Long Prairie did have a public skating rink during the late 30s. “There is an old WPA park in LP called Riverside park that was built in 1936 by the WPA administration. In a part of that park, there were 2 ponds; my grandmother told me she would swim in those ponds, and when they froze in winter, she would skate on those ponds. This was the earliest, open outdoor public skating rink in Long Prairie! Other people have said that from the 40s till about the middle 1970s there was a public skating rink in Soldier Field. This was where kids would go and on winter days they would skate - there was a warming house, and there was an attendant who would help them tie their skates. The kids would simply skate and skate!”, Jeff says.
It was when people started sharing stories of how good it would be to have an outdoor rink again, with all the lights on, and people and kids skating there, that according to Jeff prompted Luan Brunkhorst, Director, Chamber of Commerce, and others to start thinking about an outdoor rink. Jeff says, “There was always a friendly competition between neighboring towns to have one. Lu just took that idea and ran with it.”
Volunteers have helped to set up the ice rink
Luan Brunkhorst says that Harley VanRuler, the ice keeper for the rink has been the go-to guy for everything ice skating. “He has helped with everything - he created the Zamboni- an ice resurfacing machine that resurfaces the ice for a pristine skating surface for the players. He is also creating the blade that will shovel automatically so that he does not have to shovel next year”, she says
VanRuler was an ice hockey coach before he retired. “When the rink came up I offered to help out, during the first year. We have kids as small as 3 years skating, we even had a guy who was 85 years old. There are no charges for using the rink. We have now bought 12 pairs of hockey skates. We have some finger skates and some hockey skates, totaling about 25 pairs. It's a great way to get kids introduced to the program,” he says.
Les Levin, the electrician and water heater man for the rink, helps with the setting up and tearing down of the rink, whenever needed. He is also in charge of the electrical work there - warming etc. Involved with Long Prairie Hockey when his boys were growing up, he quickly jumped on board when Luan started talking about an outdoor skating rink and helps out with whatever is needed. “The rink is just what we needed”, Levin says. “It helps people of all ages outside, enjoying the rink, and the sport”.
Jeff Koehn, Midway Storage, and all-around helper is the manager of the Hockey Association’s ice rink at the Expo Arena. “When Lu came to us and asked us if the HA would be interested in having an outdoor rink started, I offered her my support. And so did the Hockey Association, “ he says. Koehn rents out separate units at the midway storage facility. He helps Luan to coordinate the setup of the boards set up, get in the water, etc. “I work hard to help the rink run smoothly,” Jeff says.
Luan Thomas-Brunkhorst admits that without the active participation of volunteers and the City, getting the ice rink to open up so quickly would not have been possible. “The City helped us get the rink in order and the Fire Department filled it with water. Its contribution was to help with shoveling snow from the parking lot and garbage disposal. The Public Works came to our help twice. When it snows, it has to be removed from the ice on the rink quickly. Or, it tends to get absorbed into it and sets off a reaction, causing a lot of bumpiness for the skaters. Our volunteers do an impeccable job each time, helping to shovel snow and preparing the rink for visitors every single day”, Luan says. “Once we had 5 inches of slush - we had to get it off right away. Then 12 inches of snow. If you skate on the rink it has to be scraped. But who wants to shovel after skating?” Luan laughs.
Planning for the coming season
Her goal for next year is to have a set of volunteers in place. “I already have a calendar set up for next year, and we hope to have many more to volunteer”, she says. “So even if there is no snowfall, the volunteer will have to shovel after every skating activity.”
Luan is trying to get non-profit organizations to promote themselves at the rink. Organizations like churches, Lion’s Club, and the Rotary Club will be asked to sign up for a week - these entities will show up at the rink and help the kids tie their skates. Luan plans to promote the rink and the non-profits through social media posts.
For Luan Thomas-Brunkhorst, there have been many hard moments while setting up the ice rink. “However, I do not want to give up. There has been so much work that has gone into setting up the rink, the volunteers have been so creative and helpful; we simply have to keep the ice rink ready for our skaters, each day and every day of the season!” Luan says.
You are welcome to experience the ice rink at Soldiers Field, Long Prairie. If you would like to volunteer on a part-time basis, working with the Zamboni and snow shoveling, please contact us here.