EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 4, 2014

Backyard rinks a hit in New Hampshire

Backyard rinks are popular in Granite State

By Alex Lippa

---- — There weren’t a lot of people spending time outside in the frigid air last Friday afternoon. But for the Beyrent family of Sandown, it was perfect weather.

Erich Beyrent, his wife Christine and their two sons, Christopher, 9 and Nicholas, 8, spent the afternoon in their backyard, skating on their homemade rink.

“It just doesn’t get much better than this,” Erich Beyrent said.

Ice skating on an outdoor rink was one of the “603 Reasons” people say New Hampshire is special.

Erich Beyrent has built a rink in his backyard each year since 2010.

“My friend up the street had built one and I was jealous of that,” he said. “I thought I could do that.”

After some struggles the first year, Beyrent has since gotten the hang of it.

“There isn’t too much to it,” he said. “I can now get it built in about three or four hours.”

While Beyrent enjoys putting it up himself, there are other alternatives.

Bedford resident Joe Proulx owns Elite Backyard Rinks. He said there is a waiting list for his company to put up rinks around Southern New Hampshire and into Massachusetts..

“I put up about 25 rinks this year,” he said. “The demand keeps growing every year.”

Proulx said he started building his own rinks in 2008.

“I found that after a couple years that I was pretty good at it,” he said. “It’s not that hard; it just looks intimidating.”

Proulx said the important feature to be aware of when building a rink is the incline of the yard.

“A lot of people skip measuring the slope,” he said. “With too much of an incline, the water will flow right over the board.”

With parts and labor, Proulx said rinks typically cost between $1,000 to $4,000. But he has built them for less.

“I built my first rink for $250 using inexpensive wood,” he said. “Functionally, they’re identical.”

Chris Mader of Pelham said he started building his family’s outdoor rink after a near disaster at a local pond.

“My son was skating on a small pond and fell through the ice,” he said. “He was fine, but he was afraid to skate on a real pond again. I thought that building my own rink would end up being a lot safer.”

Mader said his kids often wake up early before school to take a twirl on the ice.

“They love it,” he said. “My youngest daughter is getting into hockey, so she practices her shooting, skating and stickhandling. My other daughter is getting into figure skating. It’s a great way to kill time during a cold winter day.”

His rink is strategically set up in his yard.

“It needs to be close to the laundry room, so we can use hot water to clean the rink,” he said.

Beyrent said he uses a hose to clean his rink, but has bigger plans for the future.

“I’ve seen attachments you can put on John Deere tractors,” he said. “It can be like a mini-Zamboni.”

When snow falls, rink owners need to get out there quickly or risk ruining the ice surface.

“We just take our snow blower and go right over it,” Beyrent said.

He said he put up his rink in mid-December. He hopes to use it for at least a couple more weeks before the warm weather comes.

“Everything is temporary,” Proulx said. “It’s easy to take down. Some families ask me to leave the boards up and they make it into a little soccer field in the summer.”

Christopher Beyrent’s favorite thing about having a backyard rink is hosting birthday parties and playing pick-up games with his friends and family.

“Games with the family is fun,” he said. “Except when my brother checks me over the boards.”