‘A really nice little gem’
Rink, warming house create additional gathering space in Lancaster
By Anna Jauhola
LANCASTER — Tucked behind the former Lanc-aster Creamery building is another example of the community’s continuous fund-raising efforts. On a concrete slab that once housed a bulk fuel truck, there now sits a roomy warming house for those who use the outdoor ice skating rink.
“We raised money over three or four years with the (Jerry Wilson) Run,” said Randy Nordin.
The run is named for his wife, Peggy’s, brother, and is often the source of funding for many community projects. The warming house was a natural progression in use of the funds.
“We’ve done different projects for the city through the years, including the ice rink,” Nordin said. “Once the rink was paid for, then we started on the warming house. It was something people had been asking for. The rink is very busy, which is just awesome to see.”
Sunday afternoon, Jan. 10, was a great example. A group of six boys occupied the rink to play some hockey. When a little girl showed up to start learning how to skate, the boys gladly took to the opposite side of the rink to allow her space. They even helped shovel snow off the ice to help give her a better surface.
Little Kari Ann Swenson, 5, loved her room to practice, plus the boys had plenty of room for their antics and practice on the south side of the ice.
The boys said they love the new warming house as they ran off the ice, across the alley and into the approximately 18-by-22-foot building for a pizza break.
Nordin said volunteers helped construct the warming house, which is on the former location of the Midland Station.
“The concrete was fairly good, so I just designed the building to be the exact size as that concrete. So that saved us a lot,” Nordin said.
The physical project itself cost approximately $20,000, he said, but including the volunteer labor hours and experience, the total cost makes it approximately a $40,000 building.
“We were thankful at this last run we were able to get it completed and paid for,” Nordin said.
The building and the rink are on Lancaster city property, so even though the Jerry Wilson Run group built and donated the building the city will take care of it. Nordin said it shouldn’t require much, however, as the building is “basically maintenance free.”
The city has allowed the use of a couple plastic folding tables and chairs, and someone donated a used couch for the building. The project included the purchase of a forced-air electric furnace, which is installed in the southwest corner of the ceiling.
One of the most expensive, but important features, is the skate-proof recycled tire floor, said Nordin.
“It’s impossible to cut with a knife, so I don’t foresee any maintenance,” he said. “I dragged my feet for two months before I ordered it. I didn’t want to spend less and then replace it in two years either.”
The run’s proceeds also helped build the skating rink, which is annually maintained by the city and flooded by the Lancaster Fire Department. Mayor Mike Olson, who is also on the department, said it’s been a real learning process. The rink itself also sits on the site of a former building, which was donated, and volunteers helped clean up to make way for the ice rink. For both the rink and the warming house, many from the community donated additional money to make the complex possible.
“One of the first times we put water on (the rink) it was about 15,000 gallons,” Olson said with a laugh. “It ran and it was kind of a mess.”
This year, Olson came across a business that sold plastic specifically for outdoor ice rinks. So he purchased some and the city paid for it.
“We thought it’ll cost a little bit of money, but if it’ll save water, which costs money too, it may work,” Olson said. “And it seems like it’s working.”
The fire department and city knows adjustments will be needed again next year. However, seeing all those kids enjoying the ice makes the effort worthwhile.
“I think it’s pretty cool the community and everybody donated time and money for this,” Olson said. “It’s a really nice little gem that many people don’t even know is there.”
As the warming house serves a seasonal purpose, Nordin said it has already been busy as a gathering place for small Bible study, youth group and confirmation gatherings.
“Our hope is when there are school reunions and different things, that classes would be able to meet in there, use it for groom’s suppers, and so on, so it’s used year round,” Nordin said.
Now the warming house is complete, the Jerry Wilson Run fundraising will tackle the purchase of new playground equipment at the football/baseball fields on the south side of town. Nordin said the group will donate funds to the city until there is enough to purchase and place the equipment.
“It’s hard work, but it’s really rewarding like when you see all the people using it,” he said. “All the kids, elementary school classes have been out here. It’s a lot of fun to see it be used.”