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Skating for fun and fitness: Winter activity supported by Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation

WORTHINGTON -- If the skate fits, lace it up and hit the ice. That's exactly what all the adults involved with enabling a $15,000 Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) grant to the Worthington Hockey Association (WHA) were shooting ...

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Children participate in the Learn to Skate program inside the Worthington Arena. (Special to the Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - If the skate fits, lace it up and hit the ice.

That’s exactly what all the adults involved with enabling a $15,000 Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) grant to the Worthington Hockey Association (WHA) were shooting for: better rental skates and more of them available in the most common sizes needed by the community’s youths.

“Rather than hibernating during the coldest months, skating is a way to participate in a fun wintertime activity,” said Kris Hohensee, a 19-year WHA “hockey mom” and current concession stand manager at the Worthington Arena.

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“This is the ‘State of Hockey’ and the land of 10,000 lakes; why not encourage activities and sports for youth and families that involve ice?”

The WRHCF board agreed with that rationale, and Worthington Arena manager Eric Pederson and WHA president Scott Langerud recently oversaw the acquisition of roughly 170 new pairs of rental skates.

“We’d started the process of getting rid of the old skates because we realized we were getting behind on it,” said Langerud.

“With all the kids coming out during open skate hours, we were often running out of skates, especially in certain sizes, or some kids had to squeeze into a too-small pair or wear sloppy bigger ones, and that doesn’t make for a very good experience.

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“These skates cost about $85 a pair, so it was close to a $15,000 deal to do the whole lot of them.”

Pederson, an experienced ice arena manager, advised the purchase of a certain type of skate that works best for rental purposes.

“These are built and designed specifically as rental skates, not competition skates, and they’ll last for a long time,” Pederson advocated. “They’re a good long-term investment, especially with the numbers we get here for public skating times.”

Certainly, attendance has been high at open skate periods during the arena’s major months of operation (October through mid-March) in the past few years. Pederson verified that an average of 200 skaters attend Friday night open skates, with 150 to 200 present on Saturday evenings, and another 100 to 120 gliding around the ice on Sundays.

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“On the Friday night before New Year’s Eve, we had close to 300 people at the arena,” noted Pederson.

Skating provides an invigorating physical workout, and even a casual skater is sure to burn dozens of calories.

“Every parent can attest that kids sit around glued to iPads or iPhones too often, so any physical activity is good activity,” said Langerud.

“Skating offers a great opportunity to be moving and active, and the ability to socialize at the same time is also valuable. Having all those kids under one roof, not making mischief and being monitored - it’s a good thing for us to be able to offer open skate times, and part of providing that is having skates that aren’t just old, junky, hand-me-down hockey skates with ripped out tongues.

“If they have a better experience, they’re more apt to return.”

Additionally, the WRHCF grant made room for the WHA to purchase 12 molded plastic ice walkers, which are used to aid beginning skaters in their first attempts on the ice.

“The ice walkers can really help kids who are new to skating or uncomfortable with it at first, and they work well for either beginning figure or hockey skaters,” credited Langerud.

“These are wider at the base to allow for more of a full skating stride.”

Another recent initiative at the Worthington Arena was a six-week “Learn to Skate” program, which Pederson said introduced 54 kids (ages 4 to 13) to skating this season.

“We’re very happy with those numbers for the first session, and we’ll continue it next year for sure,” said Pederson, adding he’s still trying to find a way to squeeze in a shorter “Learn to Skate” session during the next couple of months, if at all possible.

If enough interest is expressed, Pederson would also like to bring a “Daddy and Me” or “Mommy and Me” daytime skating program to Worthington.

“There’s definitely a lot more we could do, but there needs to be the interest to do it,” Pederson mentioned.

Langerud is thrilled that the WRHCF chose to support the WHA with the $15,000 grant.

“Really, this is about promoting a healthful activity for our local kids,” said Langerud, and Hohensee, who assisted in writing the grant, added, “It’s great they’re supporting skaters and the ice arena because skating is something that makes Minnesota what it is.”

Pederson is similarly appreciative for the WRHCF grant, as he sees firsthand on a daily basis how many children and families are eager to use the ice arena as a center for fitness and physical activity.

“We’re very grateful, and it’s amazing and so nice we have foundations and organizations willing to dedicate money to this,” Pederson commented. “These improvements aren’t just for the facility, but really, for the skaters themselves.”

Regular open skate hours at the Worthington Arena, 1600 Stower Drive, Worthington, are 7-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5-8 p.m. Sunday. For more information about Worthington Arena hours, fees, programs, family skating memberships or arena rental, call 507-376-5252.

Related Topics: HEALTH
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