Frozen fun: Sandwich ice rink opens for the season

Beth Jaske of Sandwich had been waiting almost a month to take her two granddaughters, 8-year-old Abby and 4-year-old Ashlynn Hubbartt of Aurora, ice skating.

Every day, she checked the Sandwich Park District’s website and drove past to see if a green flag was flying, signaling safe skating conditions.

On Wednesday, the ice rink located in James Knights Park, 1001 N. Latham St. in Sandwich, opened for its third year after a delay of more than a month because of partially frozen ice. The ice was not completely frozen in spots, leading to cracks and unsafe skating conditions.

“We’re excited to finally be ice skating after checking every day if the rink was open,” Jaske said. “I’m glad that the park district puts up the rink every year. I bought my granddaughters double runner skates, and they love being out on the ice. Skating is a good, fun activity for the kids.”

The ice rink was assembled and filled with water Dec. 6 by 15 fire science students from Indian Valley Vocational Center under the direction of Sandwich Park District Director Sue Swithin and Sandwich Fire Chief and instructor Jason Pruski.

It took about 25,000 gallons of water to fill the 60-by-100-foot rectangular ice rink, which has an average depth of 6 inches.

Pruski said that helping with the ice rink teaches his students how to use fire equipment, such as hoses and water hydrants, and allows them to make a difference in the community.

“Helping put together and fill the ice rink is just one way we help out in the community,” Pruski said. “We also help with the Franklin Mall Christmas Food Project and Toys for Tots.”

Swithin said there have been a lot of skaters eager to get on the ice this year, with the park district receiving a lot of phone calls asking about skating conditions. She said that most skaters use the rink on weekends and evenings after school, with an average of 30 to 40 skaters a day.

“I think that having an ice rink in Sandwich is a great way to teach children how to skate and to have fun on the ice,” Swithin said. “There really are no other outdoor rinks in the area. Skating is a lifetime activity and teaches all ages how to remain active in the winter and enjoy the outdoors.”

A green flag is placed outside of the rink if it is safe to skate. Information regarding whether the ice rink will be open for the day is updated daily and posted on the park district’s website and Facebook page.

When there is a green flag, the ice skating rink is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The rink will remain open through the winter until warmer temperatures thaw the ice.

The ice rink’s hockey hours are 8 to 10 a.m. and 8 to 9 p.m. weekdays and 8 to 9 a.m. and 8 to 9 p.m. weekends. Hockey also may be played when there are no skaters on the rink. Ice skates and hockey equipment can be borrowed from the park district’s office building during business hours.

The park district is looking for instructors to teach skating and for volunteers to help shovel snow from the rink and resurface the ice. If interested, call the park district office at 815-786-8044.

“So far, no people have contacted us about wanting to learn how to resurface the rink or keep it clean from snow,” Swithin said. “We are also looking for instructors to teach skating. In previous years, we had a wonderful response and turnout, and we hope that with the community’s help with maintenance, we will keep the ice rink going.”

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