MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You’ve heard of the “Field of Dreams” — but have you heard of the “Rink of Dreams?”
In the heart of the heartland, there’s a farm that seems to fit right in. The Schulz family is known for producing corn, soybeans and plenty of ice.
A Zamboni is as good as a tractor. And, it’s just one part of what’s become a hockey hub in the middle of Blue Earth County. It’s a regulation-size rink built inside a machine shed. There’s even a locker room for visiting teams — exactly how Paul Schulz dreamt of it.
Stacey Shulz-Pope believes her late husband Paul loved three things: his family, farming and hockey. Paul loved the sport so much, in fact, that he wanted to give kids of all ages a free place to play. So in 2005, that’s exactly what he did.
“’Rink of Dreams.’ Build it and they’ll come. And they’ve come. They’ve come from all over. All over,” Stacey said.
From Waseca, St. Peter, the Twin Cities and beyond. It’s been that way now for more than 15 years. But sadly, Paul only got to see the first year of the rink’s success. In 2006, he died unexpectedly of a heart attack while farming.
“I ran grain cart, he ran combine, and it was a great way to bring up kids. And he’s missed very, very much,” Stacey said.
But through heartache and grief, something miraculous happened. Friends, family and even Paul’s old hockey buddies stepped up to keep the rink running. Judd Schulz was just 8 when his father died. To him, manpower and memories are what keep it going.
“I think he would want it to be in the spot it’s in right now. I mean, it wouldn’t happen without everybody that’s involved in it,” Judd said.
“That’s why we keep doing it, to see the kids coming out. And see the people that may not skate if it wasn’t for this sheet of ice,” Stacey said.
That includes the Rueter family.
“I didn’t realize how cool it was going to be,” Sutton Rueter said, who skates with his four siblings.
“Prior to our kids coming out here, they’d never skated before and my husband and I were not skaters,” Amanda Rueter said. “Now one of them’s playing hockey, all of them are into skating.”
Last year, Judd used the building his father built to propose to his girlfriend.
“We always say he’s smiling down on then, smiling down on this building here, smiling down on the kids that come through,” Stacey said. “It’s pretty neat, it is amazing to see. And even after all these years, it is super special.”
Judd and all of his siblings are hockey players. One of his sisters played in college.
The rink re-opened last week after being shut down last year due to COVID-19. The family does not charge for ice time. They do accept donations but if you can’t afford it, you are still welcome to skate.