Bringing Back the Ice 2019

Celebrating 7 Years of Creating Winter Magic and Community at Hoyt Park

Posted In: Culture, ,   From Issue 873   By: Robert E Martin

08th January, 2019     0

With one of the most beautiful and accessible skating and sledding facilities available in the Great Lakes Bay Region, The Friends of Hoyt Park and Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw are keeping their fingers crossed for cool temperatures and plenty of snowfall as the seventh season of Bringing Back the Ice at Hoyt Park commences and plans are finalized for the 6th Annual Outhouse Race.

Featuring Free Open Skating, Hockey & Sledding, affordable $2.00 skate rentals and free hot chocolate and cookies served at Hoyt Park’s renovated warming house, five weeks of fun and family oriented events are scheduled beginning Saturday, January 19th and concluding on Saturday February 16th with Positive Results Downtown’s 6th Annual Outhouse Race.

During the 1920’s when Hoyt Park was at its peak during the winter months, as many as 7,000 patrons would converge upon this expansive skating & sledding resource in one day, while averaging 100,000 skaters every winter; and throughout the decades it has remained the crown jewel of Saginaw’s parks & recreational programs.

With the downturn in population and diminished financial resources, in 2003 the City of Saginaw could no longer afford to maintain the facility, so consequently city baseball, softball, flag football and other recreational leagues, which had provided an outlet for residents through many generations, were suddenly no longer available.  But in 2008 a concerned group of Saginaw citizens came together to create a group that would help resurrect and maintain the historic park, forming a grassroots citizen group called The Friends of Hoyt Park.

Spearheaded by Larry Brethauer and Chris Packard, the group signed a lease with the city to bring the park back to life, initially setting its sights on bringing baseball back to the historic facility. With the 1,800- square foot warming house operational after a $400,000 renovation, the beauty of this historic recreational landmark was finally opened to the public in the winter months.

Since its inception six years ago Bringing Back the Ice has indeed proven that ‘if you build it they will come’. According to Brethauer, “With a series of events of this nature everything is based upon the weather, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the good turnouts. We usually get at least 200 people on a low day and as high as a couple thousand people for each of the events that we feature.  I think we’re still at the tip of the iceberg and as people become more aware that this is going on, the crowds will build. It’s touchy because if the weather is too cold people shy away and if it’s too warm the ice melts, so the prime temperature is within that 20 to 30-degree range.”

“This year we have three dates with a radio station playing music while people skate and for the other dates we’ll have either a DJ or music also featured,” notes Larry. “Plus, this year we are going to be featuring Broomball Instruction for the first time on Saturday, Jan. 26th & Feb. 2nd from Noon to 2 PM. Whether you’ve played broomball before or would like to learn, this will give you the opportunity to learn the basics. Broomball is a sport similar to hockey in its formation and rules, but also incorporates some soccer strategies. Participants wear shoes, so no skates or skating skills are necessary and broomball sticks and balls and limited size helmets will be provided by the Saginaw County Parks & Recreation Commission, who is also one of our new sponsors this year.”

Even though temperatures and weather this year haven’t gotten cold enough yet to form ice, Larry is optimistic. “We anticipate the weather will get cold when we need it,” he reflects. “All we need is enough ice to skate and we can have the park ready in 24-hours if we need to. If the ice is bumpy we have to put fresh water over it so it can freeze; and if it snows overnight we’ll start plowing at 9 am and then have the tractor buff the ice so it’s nice and smooth.”

“Sponsors are essential to make this happen,” continues Larry, “and this year we have 97.3 The Joe, WIOG FM, Macdonald Broadcasting, 96.1 WHNN, Meijer, Dow, Kiss 107.1, the City of Saginaw, Saginaw County Parks & Recreation, and Catholic Federal as our pivotal sponsors. HAP Insurance is also a new sponsor this year. “It takes 600,000 to a million gallons of water to lay ice for the park, but we use unfiltered water and fortunately Catholic Federal Credit Union has been our water sponsor for the last few years, which usually costs around $1,000 or under. If they were using filtered water it would run around $20,000 to lay the ice.”

“The water comes from the bay and into the water works and there is a pipe system that goes back to the 1930s from the water works to the park. Each year when we open the valves we pray it works, because if for some reason those pipes were to break there is no other way to get the water over there. You can’t have the fire department bring it in because it would be cost prohibitive, but there’s still good pressure from the pipe system. The water bubbles out of the ground and goes to where it needs to be and none of it floods into the infield because we build the diamonds up during the ball park renovation.”

“Additionally, Thomas Mudd set up an endowment for us a couple months ago that he kick-started with a $10,000 contribution. It’s called The Thomas Mudd Friends of Hoyt Park Endowment and is administered through the Saginaw Community Foundation, so if anybody wants to contribute the goal is to get it built up to the $500,000 level, so it can cover our costs in perpetuity.”

The 2018 Bringing Back the Ice Schedule begins on January 19th with Night Skating from 4-7 PM. “This is the one time that we do night skating,” notes Larry. “It costs $50 per hour to run the lights and every time a light goes out is costs up to $100 to replace one, so with 400 lights in the park that can add up. Plus, you have to hire an electrician to run the box and cranes to replace the lights. Originally, we were thinking the skating and sledding would be a day-time activity, but the park is so beautiful at night and given that its already wired, we wanted to offer this opportunity for night skating to the community.”

Jan. 26 – Skating with the SVSU Hockey Team from noon to 4 pm. 27th.  “For this event, the entire team and the coaches will be attending to help work with the kids,” explains Larry. “The idea is for them to skate around and see who might need help learning how to skate. As with any sport, it’s important to learn the fundamentals from the get-go. I’ve seen kids falling down and within five minutes of the team working with these kids, they’re skating all around the park.”

Feb. 2 – Skate with the Mascots from noon to 4 pm. “This is our second year for this event,” states Larry. “All the high schools and colleges in the region have mascots, so we thought it would be fun to have them all come to the park. Regardless of whether it’s cold or warm, it will be fun to have them either skating on the ice or milling around and interacting with the kids.”

Feb. 9 – School Skate from noon to 4 pm. “This is an event that our volunteer Ruth Ann Knapp came up with,” notes Larry. “Again, all the schools in the region have certain colors and uniforms, so if they show up wearing the colors of their school it shows both pride and offers a good reason for people to show up and enjoy the ice.”

Feb. 16 - 6th Annual Outhouse Race on Feb. 17th from Noon to 4 PM.  According to Aaron Lerash , who is the new Chairman of the annual Outhouse Races, community response to this visual fun-fest has been impressive.

“Each year regardless of the weather, we’ve been able to grow the event and last year was our biggest yet. Between all the participants we had between 1,500 to 2,000 people coming and going and our layout will predominantly the same. We’ll be starting the races at 1 PM, only this year our Warming Tent will have windows on it, so people can enjoy their adult beverage and watch the races from inside the tent”

“I anticipate this year we’ll have around two dozen or more entries to the race,” he continues. “We offer cash prizes in the amount of $300 for 1st Place, $150 for 2nd Place, and $50 for 3rd Place, plus the Saginaw Spirit donates their Eagles Nest suite as a Judges Choice Award. Additionally, we stage a Crazy Hat Contest, so anybody who shows up can design a crazy hat and during our intermission those folks line-up and parade their hat in front of judges and can win a $50.00 gift card, donated by Dr. Jack Nash.

“Additionally, if people don’t know how to build an outhouse for the races, the Saginaw Career Complex can build the frame for you, so you can decorate it and add the finishing touches. There’s a $150 fee for them to do this, but we can also provide you with plans for building the frame. We also have $250 Track Sponsorships available that get the sponsors a banner to display on the track plus an outhouse entry with their sponsorship.”

Adds Positive Result’s Jeanne Conger, “For each weekend event during the four hours when the warming house is open we will be serving hot chocolate and cookies; and thanks to our sponsors, people are truly rediscovering the magic of this important community resource.  This year’s sponsors for the Outhouse race consist of A.C. Klopf and Remer Plumbing & Heating, as Warming Tent sponsors. The Prize Sponsor is Wildfire Credit Union and the Judge’s Choice Prize Eagles Nest Package consists of  15 tickets to the Eagle’s Nest with pop and pizza donated by The Saginaw Spirit.”

For this core nucleus of community activists that got Hoyt Park back to shape, the benefits have been immensely rewarding. “Anytime you have a passion and come up with an idea the first thing you get is a group of naysayers that say it can’t be done,” reflects Brethauer. “But people will definitely support something if it has value; and there is a vein of emotion going back to great memories from this park that are securing it as an asset for the future.”

For more information and to become involved with the Friends of Hoyt Park or Positive Results Downtown you can contact Larry Brethauer at 989.284.0945 or Jeanne Conger at 989.753.9168.










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