Demand for outdoor ice rinks increases, weather puts season on hold

A warm start to December has made it difficult to maintain backyard ice rinks in the Twin Cities metro area. (FOX 9)

With more people spending time outside and a pause on youth sports because of COVID-19, local companies say demand for outdoor ice rinks is up, but the unseasonably warm weather means many are getting a late start to skating season.

"I would say the demand this year is probably up 50 percent," said Adam Carignan, owner of Ice Time Minnesota, a company that sets up outdoor ice rinks.

Carignan installs residential backyard rinks as well as rinks for companies. He says this year he’s had some breweries reach out to him, looking to build rinks in their parking lots as an outdoor attraction.

"Everybody has the same idea. Everybody is trying to find something to do," Carignan said. "This year it’s more the intensity of people wanting it and needing to have it."

Some of those who need it, build it themselves. Blair Buccione has been building a rink in his backyard for six years.

"The weather this year has been about as bad as it can be," Buccione said.

He said this year was the earliest skate on record: the day before Thanksgiving. He says with the temperature changing so frequently over the last few weeks, it’s been a challenge to keep the ice operational. With his kids out of school and sports due to COVID-19 though, he said getting the rink up early was a priority.

"This is hours and hours of entertainment," he said.

Many cities have not flooded their public parks' ice rinks yet. Earlier this month, the City of Edina’s city manager sent out a tweet tampering down rumors that the city’s ice rinks wouldn’t be open this year. He says that rumor is "FALSE." They’re just waiting for "the right weather to do it."

The City of Minneapolis has not flooded many of their ice rinks yet. According the Minneapolis Parks and Recreations Board, "Limited warming rooms will be open across the city with occupancy and time restrictions as determined through COVID-19 guidelines. Warming rooms are located at Bohanon, Lake Hiawatha, Lake of the Isles, Logan, Longfellow, Lynnhurst, North Commons and Windom NE parks."

As for the perfect ice-making conditions? FOX 9 Chief Meterologist Ian Leonard said there needs to be consistent overnight lows of 24 degrees or less and the daytime high needs to be less than 36 degrees. Cloud cover, rather than a sunny sky, is especially helpful. However, he said if the current weather conditions in the metro area continue, it could mean some rinks stay ice-free until Christmas.