Skating Under Cover: Kearney’s Indoor Ice Rink

An ice skater was photographed on a frozen Sandhills lake in Cherry County by Solomon D. Butcher in 1901. RG2608-2913

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 new rink was to have a bandstand, seating for spectators, cloak and reception rooms, and electric lighting.

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.

To view several objects and images from the Nebraska History Museum’s collections relating to ice skating, see this blog entry.

– Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor/Publications

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