Homemade rink brings frozen fun

WARREN – They may not be quite old enough yet to try out for the Winter Olympics, but two local children have been able to practice ice skating and playing ice hockey close to home over the past three winters.

Jack Litton, 6, and Alex Litton, 9, of Warren, have spent the past three months enjoying a 20-foot-by-40-foot ice rink in the back yard of their Oak Knoll N.E. Road home thanks to their dad, Christopher Litton, who built it for them shortly after Thanksgiving.

While Alex enjoys figure skating on the ice; Jack likes to play goalie in hockey.

The two have been able to use the ice rink more this winter than in the past two years mostly due to the much colder temperatures that have kept the ice frozen longer and because of the many school cancellations.

The siblings spent even more time playing this weekend since they were off school Friday for teacher conferences and are off today for Presidents’ Day.

Jack is in kindergarten and Alex is a fourth-grader at John F. Kennedy Lower Campus at Blessed Sacrament in Warren.

Jack said, “It is fun to come out here and play and have some fun.”

The fun may be coming to end soon though.

“From the looks of the extended weather forecast, it might be our last weekend on the rink,” Chris Litton said, noting temperatures are expected to reach the 40s and 50s later this week.

Litton said up until a thaw after Christmas, there was always a build up of ice overnight.

He used two footer boards and a plastic liner and then would flood the inside once temperatures got below freezing.

”Normally, the last two years, we have only been able to skate for maybe three weeks. This winter has been three months. Since after Thanksgiving we have been able to be out here every week. There were some days when the ice became slushy and had to keep refilling it with water,” Litton said.

Litton said he used to take his children to the Ice Zone in Boardman, which he still on occasion does, but to save on costs of the long drive back and forth, he created the ice rink in the back yard.

Alex said, “It has been fun to come out here when I am off from school.”

“They have been out here more this winter than last. They have had quite a few snow calamity days. I don’t know if they have had an entire week of school since Christmas,” Litton said.

He said the ice rink is flooded each night to keep its surface smooth.

Alex said most of the time, the next morning the children could skate because the ice froze. A few times it remained slushy, he said.

“We first flooded it Thanksgiving weekend. We didn’t get on it until early December,” Litton said. “You have to have four consistent nights of well below freezing and into the teens for it to really freeze and for it to be skateable. When you add on the subzero days like we have had this winter, it has lasted and all we do is a little bit of maintenance,” he said.

Litton said the most challenging part is keeping the snow off the rink.

“The snow sets up and if its stays on the surface, it prevents the rink from being smooth. Almost every night when it snowed I had to come out first thing in the morning and take the snow off before it sticks,” he said.

Litton said he would like next winter to double the size by putting in more topsoil.

“A lot will depend on the winter we have,” he said.