Bringing Back the Ice

Celebrating 10 Years of Creating Winter Magic and Community at Hoyt Park

    icon Jan 13, 2022
    icon 0 Comments

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 10th season of Bringing Back the Ice at Hoyt Park commences and plans are finalized for the 8th Annual Outhouse Race.

Sponsored by HAP and Saginaw County Parks & Recreations and featuring Free Open Skating, Hockey & Sledding, affordable $2.00 skate rentals and free hot chocolate & cookies served at Hoyt Park’s renovated warming house, five weeks of fun and family oriented events are scheduled beginning Saturday, January 15th and concluding on Saturday, February 12th with the 8th Annual Outhouse Race, which is sponsored by Jolt Credit Union and Dow Chemical.

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 Friends of Hoyt Park Board went to the city with Larry & Chris and 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 10 years ago Bringing Back the Ice has indeed proven that ‘if you build it they will come’. According to Brethauer, “Depending upon the weather, in recent years we average between 300 to 1000 people for any given event, depending on the weather.  With the Outhouse Races we can push up to 2000 attendees between the 3 to 4 hours we’re open.”

“The park is flooded right now and ready to go,” he continues. “At the bottom of the sledding hill there are two spots where you can throw a valve and water bubbles up across the park from the Waterworks. These are pipes from the 1930s that still work, so we don’t need to haul water into the park. The park also has pumps, so when water drains down Ezra Rust & Washington Ave., the pump station on Holland will pump water down the rest of the way. Without this pump Hoyt Park would be flooded all the time because it used to wetlands. Hoyt basically gave the city a swamp when he donated Hoyt Park; and a lot of dirt got stripped out so homes could be built high and dry in the immediate area surrounding 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.  Honestly, without Larry Martinez Sr. & Jr., Jarz Jarzabkowski, Alga Smith, and myself maintaining the ice daily, the events would not happen.”

“Additionally, Thomas Mudd set up an endowment for us last year 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 2022 Bringing Back the Ice Schedule begins on January 15th 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.”

Additionally, this year KISS 107.1 will promote with a live remote to provide music for the skaters an sledders.”

Jan. 22 – School Skate from noon to 4 pm. Everyone is encouraged to wear their school colors.

Jan. 29 – Skate with the Mascots from noon to 4 pm. “This is our 3rd 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. 5 – Skate with SVSU Hockey Team from noon to 4 pm. “During this event the SVSU hockey team will be there to help teach youth and families to skate and play hockey.”

Feb. 12 - Skate & Sledding PLUS 8th Annual Outhouse Race from Noon to 4 PM. This year the Outhouse Races will have Mike Van Eck returning as Chairman  and the races will begin at 1 PM. According to Jeanne Conger from Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw, who sponsors these events, the highest number of outhouses entered in this fun-filled competition have been 23 and they are currently recruiting for this year’s race. “Some of the more amusing entries have come from  Wildfire Credit Union, The Saginaw Fire Department and Remer’s Plumbing & Heating, who always pull together good entries.  Plus, Remer’s and AC Klopp are sponsors of the Warming Tent we feature, where people can enjoy adult beverages.”

“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.  A new addition will also be a $50 gift card aware to the Best Children’s (10 and under) character snow costume worn at the event, which is also sponsored by Dr. Jack Nash. Trophies for the Outhouse Race are sponsored by Wildfire Credit Union.”

If you need plans on how to build an outhouse, feel free to call Positive Results Downtown (PRIDE at 989-753-9168 or email them at for a set of plans.

 “For each weekend event during the four hours when the warming house is open we will be serving hot chocolate and cookies sponsored by Meijer’s; and thanks to our sponsors, people are truly rediscovering the magic of this important community resource.  This year’s sponsors consist of HAP, Saginaw County Parks & Recreation, Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw, Friends of Hoyt Park, 97.3 JOE FM, The City of Saginaw, M 96, Dow Chemical, KISS 107.1, 102.5 WIOG, and Jolt Credit Union.”

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.


Share on:

Comments (0)

icon Login to comment