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Skating grandfather builds ice rink and memories

Happy Canyon resident Andy Cornella demonstrates his ice skating skills on the new rink he built for his family and grandchildren next to their home in Happy Canyon.

By Elizabeth Wood West with photo provided by Thomas P. Matthews, Jr.

Perhaps the best way to share childhood memories is to recreate them with your children and grandchildren. Massachusetts native and lifetime ice skater Andy Cornella wanted to share his love for ice skating with his grandchildren, so he decided to build an ice rink next to his home and teach them to skate.

“I started skating in Boston when I was very young and lived near a pond where we skated every day,” said Cornella. “I played Pee Wee league ice hockey in elementary school and four years for Medford High School before attending Bowdoin College in Maine, where I skated on the varsity team for four years,” he said.

Cornella’s skating dropped off until about six years ago when one of his three sons, Jim, invited him to skate together in an adult hockey league. Cornella said, “I hadn’t skated for over 20 years. My son was a smoker at that time so I agreed to train, buy new equipment, and join the team if he’d quit smoking — and he agreed! I trained for several months and joined the team as one of the oldest guys in the league. The highlight of that experience was when we played in the championship game one year. Jim and I skated on the same line, and he scored the first goal, I scored the second and third, and we won the game 3-2! The other highlight was that Jim quit smoking!” he said. With his skating skills restored and his six grandchildren (four granddaughters, two grandsons, and one on the way) now old enough to learn to skate, Cornella began teaching them and built the rink.

Cornella’s modest 30′ x 50′ rink (or “skating surface”) was built similar to a sandbox. He used 2″ x 8″ treated lumber, fastened the corners and seams with metal plates and strapping, and drove pieces of rebar into the ground outside the 2″ x 8″s to stabilize the wood. He ordered a 55′ x 35′ liner from vendor and waited for cold weather to come.

Once the temperature reached the teens, Cornella installed the liner and emptied about 3,000 gallons of water into the liner. By mid-December, the ice had frozen to about three inches thick and Cornella was able to skate on it for the first time. If daytime temperatures reach the 40’s, the ice’s surface gets soft and is not good to skate on, even when it refreezes overnight.

Cornella plans to use a resurfacer, which applies thin layers of new water, but must wait until temperatures get down to 5 to 10 degrees.

“Skating is a wonderful family activity, and once you learn how to skate it’s like riding a bike – you never forget,” said Cornella.



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