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The original item was published from 2/14/2023 9:14:52 AM to 3/3/2023 9:51:20 AM.

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Posted on: December 19, 2022

[ARCHIVED] Still No Ice Rink? Let Us Explain

USM Hockey 1-17-22

It is cold out! Why is there no ice rink yet?

As of yet, required conditions have not been ideal to make an ice rink. Staff has made the decision to hold off on flooding the rink at the current time. The reasons are as follows:

  1. The rink basin takes up to 18 hours to fill, and, once full, it can take another 24-48 hours to get the water temperature near the surface down to where it could begin freezing, hardening top to bottom. 
  1. Snow cover is a problem. Besides disturbing a freezing ice surface, snow does two other things; first, snow is a great insulator and it greatly slows down the freezing process, which, given the depth of our basin, is a huge issue, and secondly, given the ice is in no condition to support snow removal equipment, we might be unable to remove accumulated snow.
  1. Finally, the weather all winter has been warm with highs and lows some days both slightly at or above freezing.

 We will absolutely revisit this should the opportunity present itself, and we will continue to watch the weather daily as we normally do.

What needs to happen for the ice rink to open every year? What does the process look like?

Ideally, we would experience an extremely cold November with no snow subsequent to a wet fall. (A cold dry November is the last thing the Water Department wants to see as the number of breaks grows markedly in this kind of weather.)

To create a rink, we need the following conditions to work in our favor:

  • We obviously need an extended period of cold weather.  We are pouring an enormous amount (approximately 700,000 gallons) of 38-42 degree water.  To make ice, we need to get a large portion of this water substantially below 32°. Evenings with lows in the mid-20s means that this process will take an extraordinarily long period of time, and days with daytime highs in the 30s may often mean the ice will not set up. If the ice does become established and the weather spikes to the mid to upper 30s or 40s, the surface becomes almost unskatable as it degenerates quickly, making maintenance of the surface extremely difficult.
  • To pour, the rink takes an extended period of time regardless of the temperature. Our DPW estimates it takes 15-18 hours just to do the initial pour. Our ice rink is incredibly large and takes a very large amount of water (again, almost 700,000 gallons). Secondly, the soil underneath the rink absorbs a great deal of water when we initially do the pour.  The soil needs to become saturated enough until water begins to pool on top, thus beginning the process of filling the basin.

We must also remember an additional number of hours is required if snow removal is required prior to any pour. (See below)

  • If we can get this initial pour frozen, we then pour a second layer, a thinner layer, as we build up the ice. In theory, this second layer freezes much more quickly as the amount of water we put on is substantially less (although still a large amount given the size of the rink), and the surface underneath the water is cold as it is now ice, all of this assuming the air temperature is still cold enough to support the process.
  • Snow is a huge complicating factor in the creation of our ice rink. Sometimes people see snow and think “oh it’s cold out”. Actually, it’s probably warmer.  Warmer air holds more moisture and this moisture precipitates in the form of snow. When the air is very cold it is usually extremely dry, and snowfall is less likely to occur.

Snow is an insulator and can impact us in several different ways. If it snows on the ground before we get a chance to flood, it can preclude a good hard freeze in the soil, keeping the soil warmer than the outside air. (Our Water Department loves snow in the winter for this reason as well!) Secondly, if the weather looks like it’s turning colder following snowfall, our DPW will need to remove the snow prior to pouring. If the soil is not frozen hard underneath the snow it makes removing the snow extremely difficult as our mechanical equipment will severely grind up the basin and has the potential to become stuck.

Staff monitors the long-range weather daily and makes plans in advance so that residents have as much time as possible with the rink.

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