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WCCO Viewers' Choice For Best Outdoor Rink In Minnesota

ROSEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) -- Ice skating is the quintessential winter pastime. When temperatures drop below freezing, we lace up our skates and take to the rink.

We went in search of the Best of Minnesota, and your votes sent Natalie Nyhus to the "Guidant John Rose MN OVAL" in Roseville, one of the largest of its kind.

It happens every day all over the state of hockey: Moms and dad dropping off their rink rats.  But at the Guidant John Rose MN OVAL, they play under the stars much like their grandparents did.

"For us older people or people my age, it brings you back to when you were a kid out on the lake, carefree and enjoying being outside," Rink Superintendent Brad Tullberg said.

"In 28 years I've never seen anything like it before," Dylan Vangen of Stacy said.

It's home to anything you want to do on skates, from hockey and Olympic speed skating to Bandy, a sport played on a soccer-field sized sheet of ice.

"It's a 400-meter speed skating track. It's 110,000 square feet of refrigerated ice. The largest one in North America. We are always proud to say that," Tullberg said.

The ice is cooled by an intricate, 85-mile system of underground piping, keeping the rink open even when outside temperatures are into the 50s. So how is it taking care of something like this?

"It's a challenge," Tullberg said. "With all the elements, plus the massive size of the facility itself, it's a challenge.

Think of the Xcel Energy Center where the Minnesota Wild play, times six.

"We are battling snow, rain, sleet and wind," Tullberg said.

The OVAL idea was hatched in the 80s, when then Gov. Perpich wanted to attract Olympic attention to the Twin Cities.

"Roseville had a very rich history of speed skating the way it was. A legislator, John Rose, carried the ball on this and developed the John Rose MN OVAL," Tullberg said.

Now it hosts 175,000 skaters every year. The Wild have practiced here, it's produced Olympian speed skaters and hosted legends in the sport, like Bonnie Blaire. Most people on the rink aren't out to break any records, though it's possible to do.

But the Roseville OVAL is a facility designed for everyone to use.

"Last week my wife who's 73 and I came out and did five miles on skates," Pat Branch of Centerville said.

Today Pat brought his grandson Warren Webb out.

"I really wanted to learn to do hockey so I am," Webb said.

From date night to a first step on the ice, playing puck to holding daddy's hand, there's something Rockwellian about this scene.

"If you're not from Minnesota, people think you're crazy to be outside when it's zero degrees. But it's a scenic, festive atmosphere here," Tullberg said.

The OVAL has open skate daily November through March. Just check online for hours. Cost is $5.50 and skate rental is available, too, for $4.

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