Ice skating enthusiasts in Nebraska braved winter weather and rough ice before the advent of the indoor rink made “skating under cover” a more comfortable experience. The Kearney Daily Hub on November 24, 1891, announced the opening of such a rink “Which Promises to do an Immense Business this Winter.”
The Hub said: “The constant hammering and pounding which has been going on inside the old Central rink building for the past week has been a constant source of interest to the public and numerous conjectures have been advanced as to its meaning. While arrangements have not been entirely completed we are at liberty now to let the public into the secret.”
“It is hoped that by the commencement of next week the doors which at present remain closed will be unbolted and Kearney’s ice skating rink opened to the patronage of an indulgent public. A special program is being arranged for the opening night when a full brass band will undoubtedly add interest to the occasion.
“The idea of having a skating rink of this kind originated in the minds of C. H. Henderson and H. O. Watson and it is safe to say that under the management of Mr. Henderson, who has been successful in the management of such enterprises before, the public may expect the best of accommodation and attention.
“The tank measures 40×100 feet and the ice will be frozen to a depth of eight inches, giving a perfect skating surface. At the extreme south end of the rink a band stand has been built and artistically decorated, while at the opposite end will be constructed a grand stand for the accommodation of spectators. Cloak and reception rooms add greatly to the convenience of patrons and the entire rink will be lighted by electricity.”
Several months later, on January 16, 1892, the Hub said: “Skating under cover at the rink is becoming more and more an attraction as the public comes to realize and appreciate the superior advantages attached thereto. The very best class of people are the greatest patrons of this novelty as the management gains more and more their good will and confidence.”
Kearney’s indoor ice rink in 1891-92 was not the first to offer such amenities. The Omaha Daily Bee on January 4, 1884, advertised: “Plenty skates, ice good, rink well lighted and dressing rooms well heated. St. Mary’s avenue rink.” Kearney’s social club for single men, the Bachelors’ Protective Union, told the Daily Hub in October of 1889 that plans were underway to flood and enclose the B.P.U.’s tennis grounds to create an indoor rink with “dressing rooms, stoves and refreshment bouffes [sic] for hot coffee and light lunches.” Ice skaters could at last enjoy a favorite winter sport in indoor comfort.
An ice skater was photographed on a frozen Sandhills lake in Cherry County by Solomon D. Butcher in 1901. NSHS RG2608-2913 (detail).