SHANLY — A Spencerville-area farm has turned a former pig barn into a private indoor rink. A former hay barn is now a basketball court.
The naturally chilled ice surface measures 35-by-125 feet and occupies the entire width of the interior and almost the full length of the 1980s-era sow barn.
Owner Shawn Luimes says that by opening and closing the windows, while running the barn’s ventilation system overnight, he’s able to maintain a quality, frozen ice pad from before Christmas through early April.
You would never know it, but the ice surface sits on the barn’s slatted concrete floor. Before the first flooding of the season, the owner puts down a layer of bunker plastic to prevent the water from escaping into the empty manure pit below.
The barn was already brightly lit and lined with white “puck board” when Shawn and wife Natalie bought the County Rd. 18 property in 2019. A friend came up with the rink idea, and Shawn found some old wooden concrete-pouring forms and refashioned them into short dasher boards at both ends of the big room. Some old mesh salvaged by his brother-in-law was also hung at either end to stop pucks fired high at either net.
A pew left over from the renovation of the family’s church in Dixon’s Corners serves as a top-notch bench for tying up skates.
The Luimes children, Eli, 12, and Aubree, 10, play shinny every day in the barn, often with their grandfathers, Tom Luimes and Bill Byker, both of whom live nearby.
“We figure we probably made as much money doing this as running hogs,” Byker — a crop farmer — quips on a recent winter evening. “It’s not a profit centre.”
They call the rink “Dakota Memorial Arena” in memory of the Luimes family’s deceased dog. Dakota was good at finding pucks in the snow at a local park in Stittsville, where the family lived before moving to the farm.
At the time, Shawn worked as a design engineer with a company that makes medical diagnostic equipment.
As of September 2022, however, he’s become a full-time cash-cropper and custom-harvest operator who stays very busy tending to 2,500 acres when hockey season is over.