The Coolest Yard in Town: Backyard Rink Beats Winter Blues

JOHNSTON, Iowa  --  It’s taken ten years, but Kevin Graving has almost got his passion down to a science.

“I start in November--I put in the boards," he says. "Boards, plastic, water, and winter."

This is his genius formula that he sets to work on while his wife Heidi sits back and chuckles.

“It’s a work of art, every year,” she laughs.

Kevin brings his landscape to life in the dead of winter.

“Takes about 7,000 gallons of water, I figured out," says Kevin. "Takes about 12 hours to fill.”

While their neighbors have trampolines, "We have an ice rink!” Heidi adds.

The rink is 55-by-23 feet, nets and all: Kevin's’s big toy. And each year, the neighbors get to play, too.

“A few days later I’m like ‘I’ve just gotta go ask!’” says neighbor, Amelia Curry.

The answer is always “Yes! And bring your friends." Everyone can agree that the best way to fight cabin fever is to stay out of the cabin.

“It’s like ice skating for free!” Amelia says, skating along the homemade boards.

Kevin claims the rink has turned many kids on to ice skating.

“Come Christmas time back when the neighbor kids were younger, because the rink was a steady thing in the neighborhood, ice skates became part of the Christmas list, so that’s always great.”

The Graving children are nearly grown, but the biggest kid in the house is far from finished.

“Any yard he looks at ‘Oh, that’d be a good ice rink yard!’” Heidi points out.

Kevin is still tweaking his rink, and still dreaming of ways to make it even better.

“I could get rid of the deck—who needs a deck?” he says.

This Minnesota native wants Iowans to know that this is not that difficult.

“It’s not a lot of money from a water perspective," Kevin says. "There are some up-front expenses with some of the equipment, but once you get it going you can do it for years without (much) expense.”

Now that he’s got it down, the plan is to keep it going to keep spirits high when temperatures are low.

“It’s a good thing,” Heidi nods, watching the kids skate and laugh off her back deck.

“A crystal-clear cold night—there’s nothing better,” says Kevin.

There’s a lot of fun to be had and friends to join in the excitement behind Kevin Graving’s place in Johnston.