Park district officials are pleased that the early onset of cold, winter weather has provided perfect conditions for steady use of the three outdoor ice rinks at local parks.
Due to the renovations at Ridgeland Common, the Park District of Oak Park this year installed outdoor ice rinks at Longfellow and Lindberg parks, in addition to the rink at Austin Gardens, which has been popular in the past.
“So, we are obviously continuing with that trend, and we’re very happy about it,” said Diane Stanke, the park district’s communications manager.
Although the unsupervised rinks have seen “good and steady” use, Stanke said she can’t really say whether that’s due to this season’s closure of the Ridgeland Common indoor rink.
The outdoor rinks were installed last month and the closing date will depend on the weather.
“We’re really just excited about providing this,” she said.
At Longfellow and Lindberg parks, ice rinks were installed on top of tennis courts. A green flag indicates the ice is ready for use; a red flag means the rink is closed.
Stanke said they use a type of lining that provides an even surface and requires staff to fill it with water only once at the beginning of the season.
“It’s just a much better system,” she said. “We don’t have to continue to put water on them.”
Daniel Johnson, 17, and 16-year-old twins Wyatt and Sam Turk, all of Oak Park, cleared snow Jan. 1 from part of the outdoor rink at Longfellow Park to play hockey.
“I mean, I like playing outside. It’s a little different than indoors. It’s just fun to play the game outdoors,” said Johnson, a member of the Oak Park and River Forest High School boys hockey team.
At the Lindberg Park rink, 8-year-old Ramona Meszaros tested out a pair of ice skates while her mom, Emily, watched. Ramona commented that she needed to work on stopping in the skates.
“I keep hearing Oak Park used to do this,” Emily Meszaros said. “I’m really glad we did, because we didn’t usually go to Ridgeland except for once a season. This is great. I think we’ll be here often.”
The family lives near the park and has noticed that it’s often busy, whether it’s being used for skating, hockey or even, as neighbor Mary Sekhar mentioned, for dog sledding.
“It’s been well-used already,” Sekhar said.
Stanke said construction is on track with the Ridgeland Common renovations, which include increasing the rink to regulation size, adding new locker rooms and separate entrances for hockey and the pool.
“We’re looking at a June opening,” she said.