Save the Tradition, Serve the Community

Save the Rinks 

Be sure to LIKE us on Facebook for the most up to date information and pictures of the rinks in action!

The Save the Rinks effort was formed in September 2011 after a group of concerned community members learned that a revised plan for the Congdon Park Elementary School renovation significantly decreased the available ice. A large scale effort has been initiated to learn the facts and to distribute information to all neighbors, students, and other community members. The most current renovation drawing calls for completely eliminating all three rinks (this plan also eliminates summer use of space by soccer and softball associations).  
These rinks provide a safe and structured environment for area youth and community members to skate for free and be active during the long winter months.  A steering committee has been formed to work on being proactive on informing our community and initiating discussions with Duluth Public Schools in any matters relating to this proposed renovation. 

Our mission is to work together with Duluth Public Schools to preserve almost 100 years of tradition providing ice and promoting youth activity during our long winter months. We hope to inform and engage the community and be advocates for maintaining this valuable resource in our community.

UPDATE 2/28/12 -
The School Board vote on our rinks is tonight!  There is still time to send an email to and to the Superintendent at

Please come and show your support to keep the Congdon Ice Rinks!  6:30 p.m. tonight 2/28 at 215 North First Avenue East 

Please join us tonight and help us fill the room with supporters.  Come even if you want to show "silent" support!!!  If you wish to speak, arrive 15 minutes prior to meeting to sign up for public comment - you will have up to 3 minutes to speak when they call your name.  Encourage the board to only vote in favor of the plan that offers the most recreational space for our children instead of a parking lot. 

Lets cross that finish line together!  See you there!

UPDATE 2/7/12 -
OUTDOOR SPACE MEETING @ 4:00 p.m. Tues., Feb. 7, 2012 - TODAY

IMPORTANT MEETING to discuss the outdoor space areas of Congdon Park Elementary. Meeting will be held at 4:00 p.m. TODAY at the school with school district and City of Duluth officials. PLEASE COME to show your support of keeping the ice rinks!

UPDATE 2/1/12 -

Your e-mails, letters and calls have been working.  The current proposed plans do have enough space for CPH to survive – 2 boarded rinks (one large, one small) and a pleasure rink.  However, it is important to note that our existence is contingent upon two variances (granted by the City), fundraising money for a new warming house/community building and that the district has the money to fund retaining walls.  While this is a step in the right direction – a larger goal of ours is to SAVE the district money and SAVE CPH money by keeping the current warming house/community building and our current outdoor space as it is.  Let us come together to collectively and creatively come up with where to put more parking space.  We urge the district and board not to act in haste – but to re-examine the values that the community is putting on the outdoor space – and make this a win-win situation for everyone.

Please continue to put the pressure on the school board.  As a result of not bringing us to the table until the 11th hour we are faced with a HUGE time crunch.  Only a growing amount of public pressure will be able to keep them going back to the drawing board.  We thank you in advance for all of your hard work and persistence!

What can I do to help?

We need as much community support as we can for this campaign.   We will continue to update this site as information becomes available and also send out email updates to anyone who requests to be on our email distribution list.

1. Sign our online petition

2. Email and call our elected school
board members and tell them why the ice rinks at Congdon Park are important to you!

Send a group email to all school board members

Elected School Board members:
Mary Cameron
, At-Large, 341-8893,

Art Johnston, District #4, 626-1997,
Tom Kasper, At-Large,
Mike Miernicki, At-Large, 728-4604,
Judy Seliga Punyko, District #2, 525-4688,
Ann Wasson, District #1 (chair), 728-1931,
Bill Westholm, District #3, 727-3371,

Superintendent Bill Gronseth,
Congdon Principal Kathi Kusch Marshall,
Mayor Don Ness,

3. Attend the next school board meeting at 215 North First Avenue East
(arrive 15 minutes prior to meeting to sign up for public comment - you will have up to 3 minutes to speak when they call your name)  and encourage them to vote in favor of the ice rinks and warming shack to stay.  Tell them you want to keep the ice rinks, warming shack, softball and soccer fields.  We are not asking for anything new, we simply do not want to lose the precious space we currently enjoy.

4. Write a letter to the editor in the Duluth News Tribune.  Submission information can be found at

5. Like us on Facebook!  Find "Save the Rinks" at
We have posted pictures of our Pack the Ice event.  We post frequent updates on Facebook.

PLEASE the time for your support is now.  We are in the 11th hour and face complete elimination by the school district.


Read "Local View" in the Duluth News Tribune
David Meierhoff - printed 1/31/2012

Read article on Pack the Ice event in Duluth News Tribune (January 23, 2012)

Watch Save the Rinks event Pack the Ice on Fox 21 News (January 22, 2012)

Watch Save the Rinks event Pack the Ice on WDIO channel 10 News (January 22, 2012)

Listen to radio interview on 610AM with Tracy Lundeen (January 21, 2012)

Watch Save the Rinks on WDIO channel 10 News (January 15, 2012)

Read "Letters to the Editor" in the Duluth News Tribune
Jacinta Snyder Roth - printed 1/14/2012

Read what the Minnesota Wild has to say about Save the Rinks  (January 13, 2012)

Watch Save the Rinks on WDIO channel 10 News (January 13, 2012)

Watch Save the Rinks on Fox 21 News (October 2011)

Copy and paste this letter in your email and forward to your friends, neighbors and other community members that you believe would be supportive of our efforts to 'save the rinks'.

September 2011

Friends of Congdon Park Skating Rinks:

We want to take this opportunity to share with the community a concern we have with the proposed remodeling of Congdon Park elementary school.   Over the past year, there have been several renderings of the site plan.  The most recent site plan (as of 9/12/11) does not include enough space for Congdon Park Hockey (CPH) to run a successful youth hockey program.  This is important to you as Congdon Park community members, neighbors and parents if you have ever used any of the rinks.  Congdon Park elementary students utilize all three rinks all winter for an hour each week during class.  The Kid Connection after school program uses the rinks as a wonderful after school activity.  Many neighbors and community members come out and skate on the pleasure rink and enjoy the warmth of our shack all winter long!  These rinks are flooded, maintained, and staffed by CPH volunteers.  Without the volunteer hours and equipment CPH provides to the community, your rinks will cease to exist.

The most current site plan does include space for two boarded hockey rinks, a nice warming shack and Zamboni garage and for that we thank the school district and school board.   While this is most definitely a step in the right direction (from the previous plan dated June 2011), we would like to see an improved layout of the rinks and of course a pleasure rink.  We feel the pleasure rink is an amazing asset to our school and neighboring community.  Almost every evening and weekend the pleasure rink is filled with toddlers learning to skate, school age children being active with their families and adults out for some enjoyable exercise.

To ensure progress continues to be made and this invaluable resource remains in our community, a grass roots group, called ‘Save the Rinks’ has been established to find an alternative solution to the current proposed site plan (as of 9/12/11).  We are currently gathering information, meeting with school district officials and board members to draw attention to our needs and build our case for keeping all three rinks.  Discussions are still being had and drawings are still being drawn – nothing is in stone yet.

We believe that we can work together with the school district to come up with a solution where all parties are satisfied.  Let’s try to blend the tradition of the past with the needs of the future.  The skating rinks at Congdon and CPH have been in existence since 1924 and we plan to bring it forward as the best community rink in Duluth for another 100 years!

 We wish to thank all of the families, friends, neighbors and community members who already have and those that will offer support and encouragement to our group.  As we move forward, we hope that you will consider taking an active role to ‘Save our Rinks’.  We ask that you forward this message to help us spread the word.  Please see our newly developed website for ways you can get involved at and please don’t hesitate to contact either one of us.


Sara Vallie—
Tracie Smith—
Co-founders, Save the Rinks

Save the Rinks
Find us on Facebook—Save the Rinks

“Save the Tradition, Serve the Community”

Contact the school board and let them know the importance of the congdon community skating rinks.

Send a group email to all school board members

Elected School Board:
Mary Cameron
, At-Large, 341-8893,

Art Johnston, District #4, 626-1997,
Tom Kasper, At-Large,
Mike Miernicki, At-Large, 728-4604,
Judy Seliga Punyko, District #2, 525-4688,
Ann Wasson, District #1 (chair), 728-1931,
Bill Westholm, District #3, 727-3371,

Superintendent Bill Gronseth,
Congdon Principal Kathi Kusch Marshall,

Past updates

UPDATE 1/17/12 - NEW INFORMATION HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO OUR ATTENTION IN THE PAST 12 HOURS.  Save the Rinks is now recommending to DELAY THE FULL CONGDON RENOVATION SITE PLAN for 30 days.  The district is proposing to build a new size gym which was never in the original design team recommendation.  Our neighborhood already has 2 full size gyms at the middle school and new high school.  We do not see the need for this in an elementary school.  This gym is driving the requirement for a larger number of parking spaces.  It also changed the design and location of the school entrance that will not allow our rinks to exist.  WE OPPOSE THE FULL DESIGN PLAN in its current state.  PLEASE CALL AND/OR EMAIL THE SCHOOL BOARD to tell them your concerns.  YOUR VOICE COUNTS!  The school board meeting is tonight at 6:30...sign up to speak at 6:15 p.m.

UPDATE 1/15/12 - Thank you to EACH AND EVERY ONE of you who came out to support the Congdon Park Ice Rinks tonight. We packed the house!  We would also like to thank the school board members who attended and listened to our community at the meeting.  We would also like to thank Interim Superintendent Bill Gronseth and Greg Repensky from Johnson Controls. 

We at Save the Rinks need YOU to let your elected school board officials know you want them to approve the building - not the outdoor space on Tuesday. If that is the outcome of the vote, we did receive commitment tonight from the school district to have a seat and a voice at the table in the final planning discussions for the outdoor space.

We also presented the school board members (as well as the district officials at the meeting) a copy of the over 1,000 signatures we have already received on our online petition! Thank you for you support - you are making a difference!

UPDATE 1/11/12 - The newest plan (dated 1/9/12) includes no plans to keeps the ice rinks.  We must CONVINCE THE SCHOOL BOARD to VOTE NO to the entire outdoor space/parking portion of the site plan at their meeting on Tuesday, 1/17/12.  Please join us and and tell your elected school board that we do not want a parking lot.  We want the ice rinks, warming shack and to keep this space available for summer softball and soccer.  This is a multi-use recreation space that the school board is choosing to cover with a parking lot!  TAKE A STAND NOW!

~Please send us an email and tell us what the Congdon Park skating rinks mean to you~

"32 Years ago my dad laced up my first pair of skates and sent me out on the best ice in Minnesota. My lifelong love of skating started with those single steps on an outdoor rink. Now, after 16 years of instructing figure skating in Duluth, I am lacing up my own kids' skates as they eagerly make their journey out on the ice. Our community is bound to the love of being outdoors in the elements whether we are pursuing our passions in attempt to succeed at the highest level of skating or just taking the opportunity to enjoy the sport at a recreational level. More importantly, our youth have the opportunity to try on a pair of skates and be an active participant in this community. A strong foundation for youth skating has been established through the efforts of many generations of Congdon Hockey families, and with hope, for many more years to come."
-Sarah Ching, Professional Figure Skating Instructor, Duluth Figure Skating Club

"We love Congdon hockey.  Having only lived here for a few years it has become part of our life and the lives of our boys.  As a family, we take pride in the rink and our winter would sure be dull without it.   I so love to watch my kids walk down the street with their sticks and skates hung over their shoulders for an afternoon of pickup games.  As a mom, I love working concessions with a bunch of neighborhood kids with sweaty heads asking for popsicles in the middle of January.  All this said, Save the Rink has our full support."
-the Hoeksema family, Congdon neighbors

"We are a family of the Congdon Park neighborhood who use the school's recreation facilities all year long. With upcoming changes planned for the school, we hope to see the ice rinks and warming house are maintained as a place for all the community to enjoy."

-Anna & Brad Anderson

"Our family moved to Duluth from Mid-Michigan two years ago. Our twin boys started kindergarten at Congdon and are currently in second grade.  Our family finds the rinks to be one of the greatest assets not only of the school but of living in Duluth.  The rinks are one of the things we always brag about to relatives and friends who don't live in Duluth!  Neither of our boys play hockey but we love the fact that in the winter our boys get a chance to go outside with their classes and get some ice time.  We also appreciate equally that during the evenings either my husband or I can take the boys out on our own due to the graciousness of the hockey families to work the warming house and keep it open for open skating.  It is very convenient for our family and we love being able to gather some skates and be on the ice in a matter of minutes.  I know that these times will be some of our fondest memories of winters in Duluth and hopefully also our sons when they look back.  I urge you to do what you can to support keeping the rinks at Congdon so that all families so not only our family but other families in Duluth can enjoy the rink for years to come."
-Teresa Hill

"I learned how to skate on outdoor rinks when I was 5 years old and have many great memories of spending long days and nights there with friends and family.  I was fortunate that I could walk down the street with my stick and skates over my shoulder and within 5 minutes, could be participating in a game of tag or tennis ball hockey.  That was the beauty of the outdoor rinks:  there was a game or activity available for everyone.  Whether you were just learning to skate or you were on your way to being a professional hockey player, the outdoor rinks gave you the opportunity to have fun while spending time together as a community.  I owe a lot of my successful, 15 year professional hockey career, to the endless hours spent skating and playing hockey on the outdoor rinks down the street from my childhood home."
-Brett Hauer - former UMD Bulldog, US Olympic team member and NHL player and Congdon neighbor

"Thank you for your efforts in preserving the great tradition at Congdon.  My family has a special bind there.  My father in law coached his son there for several years while my wife (his sister) skated with her friends on the pleasure rink. Tradition has carried on as I coached my daughter while her sisters skated on the pleasure rink. I'm sure there are many more stories such as these and can only hope they find a way to keep the rinks as they currently sit.  Having moved here from outside Duluth I've come to realize what a true treasure these local rinks are.  We are so truly fortunate to have them. Please continue to stand up for this cause. It is well worth it!"
-Kraig Karakas & Anissa (Zuber) Karakas and family

"Simply put, my childhood is synonymous with Congdon Park hockey.  The opportunity to participate in such a unique, community-supported program was one of the great experiences of my youth – and something that has always anchored me to Duluth.  The rink was - and still is - a gathering place, not just for hockey players, but for families, friends and neighbors.  My grandfather stood in those snowbanks watching my squirt games, my father helped flood that rink…and it’s a tradition I want to pass on to my three kids."
-Philip Vallie

"Last year it was snowing so hard that the rink attendant couldn't keep up. Another parent came down with his 4 wheeler and plowed a spot. My kids and his kids, and the children of another friend came down and skated under the falling snow.  It didn't take ten minutes before the rink was full of neighborhood kids skating, laughing, playing tag, and enjoying the winter together."
-Quentin Roth

"Having grown up in a middle class family in an upper class town, we couldn't afford ski passes or snowmobiles. What we could afford was to go skating at Congdon. It was a great family activity in the winter when there wasn't much else to do outside. It was also a safe place to go with friends as a kid.  Dad gave me a few bucks for a snack and off we'd go for tons of laughs and fun, while getting some exercise outdoors. It would be tragic if this neighborhood and city gem was gone. Now, living in a place where outdoor ice rinks don't/can't exist I appreciate it even more and truly hope to take my son there someday. I never felt judged for having less money than my classmates at Congdon rink, as I did at other places. We were just a bunch of kids skating around having fun. That is priceless."
-Joanna Johnson

"I moved here 6 years ago from the Twin Cities. Both my son and daughter learned to skate on these rinks. We have always considered the fact that our children skate during school a valuable asset and treasured part of attending Congdon Park Elementary and living half a block away.  Neither my husband or I have skating in our background however, and I truly believe it is because of the rinks at Congdon, my daughter figure skates competitively and now decided to play hockey at age 11.  My son has played hockey for 3 years now and loves the sport. They both ask every day if we will take them skating after school, on weekends and school breaks. They will skate for hours with their friends instead of begging to watch TV, play on the computer, play Wii, DS and all the other electronic devices that they enjoy but keep them inactive during the long winters. These rinks are an asset to the school, neighbors and community and in my opinion, Congdon has the best pleasure rink Duluth has to offer!"
-Tracie Smith

"I skated there from the time we moved to Duluth in 1952 until I went away to college...1964. I was thrilled to have my grandchildren be part of the hockey program there. It touched my heart to go to my four hockey playing grandkids games in the same place where I watched my friends play when I was in grade school. I have such fond memories of the smell of the warming house. It had a big space heater in the middle and always smelled like wet wool as we kids tossed our mittens on it to dry them out when we came in. At that time, in the olden days, there were no hockey teams that accepted girls, so we perched on the snow banks to watch the boys play. We played Pom Pom Pull Away and Crack the Whip on the pleasure rink for hours. The whole neighborhood walked down Branch Street together to skate, and didn't have to come home until the street lights came on. Then we would walk home together, singing silly songs and having such a good time. It seems particularly sad, with all the money spent on remodeling East and Ordean that the district couldn't have saved enough money to create a parking lot across the street and save the skating rinks that are so rich in memories and history. With the constant reports of our obese children and kids who never go outside to play, taking away a place where they get excellent exercise and have fun doing it seems criminal. Can't we find someway to save the rinks and the hockey programs at Congdon Park?
-Peg Johnson

Who do I contact for more information?
Sara Vallie—
Tracie Smith—
Save the Rinks

Find us on Facebook—Save the Rinks

Save the Tradition, Serve the Community

Park School
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