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Icing on the Rink (Hopefully)

By Ellen Oliver

The skating rink at Stow Community Park sits just behind the playground area and the new swing set structure.
Ellen Oliver

Last years’ mild weather might have been a blessing for some people, but for Recreation Commission member Tim Allaire, it inspired creative thinking. “For the amount of work it took to put up the rink and then to only get 16 days of use from it, I felt like putting goldfish in there,” he said.

Allaire, his fellow Recreation Commission members and supporters from the Sudbury Maynard Stow youth hockey organization (SMS) hope they won’t have to resort to an impromptu koi pond at the park this year. They installed the skating rink on Saturday and are now monitoring the 10-day weather forecasts, looking for a cold spell. “We’re hoping the rink could open for Christmas, but we need Mother Nature to help us out,” said Allaire.

Once they see about seven days with freezing temperatures predicted, a team of volunteers will spring into action to make the rink a reality. The volunteers install the liner, about a 90 minute process, and then the Stow Fire Department  begins filling the rink over two nights.

“The Fire Department is so nice to do it,” said Allaire. “They volunteer after hours, on their own time. The Stow Recreation Department really appreciates it.” The help from the Fire Department saves the Town $1500 that it would have to pay a tanker truck to fill the rink. Eighteen trips and 34,000 gallons later, the rink is ready to set.

The rink is a bit larger this year – 67’ wide by 106 feet long. “We increased the length by five feet and the width by eight feet, said Allaire, adding that the shape now “looks more like a skating pond than a hockey rink.”

Allaire is hoping to repeat some history, not from last year, but the first year the rink opened. “Last year we only had 16 skating days. The year before we had 64,” he said. If the weather is chilly and the rink opens, look for more public skating times along with free learn-to-skate programs and fundraisers from local groups.

Rink sponsor, the SMS, ran a well-attended learn-to-skate program the first year, with four sessions, but last year it was only cold enough for one. “The learn-to-skate programs are for everyone, anyone who wants to learn or relearn to skate,” explained Allaire. SMS coaches will be on the ice to work with kids and grown ups.

If you prefer to practice in a more casual environment, there will also be public skating sessions attended by skate guards to help little kids improve their skating skills. And of course, the best skating is at night when chilly temperatures ensure an icy surface. “The lights are approved until 8:00 pm,” said Allaire. “It’s perfect for skating after dinner.”

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a colder winter than last year and snow for Christmas; so the long range outlook for the rink is good. But Allaire has a suggestion to console the folks who enjoyed the 2011 balmy weather. “On those mornings when you are heading out to work and the car won’t start, that just means the rink is getting ready,” said Allaire. “Come out and skate.”

The rink is available for rentals for birthday parties or fundraising events. Call the Recreation Department to learn about availability. The weekly schedule for skating times will be posted at the Recreation website and in The Stow Independent.