HOUGHTON - It's been a long time coming, but the rink at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena is finally being flooded and the first ice rental for the year will take place Saturday.
But, like the rink's new concrete slab with 13 miles of new piping hidden underneath it, there's much more to the process of flooding the rink than meets the eye, too.
Student Development Complex maintenance crews cranked up the new compressors Friday afternoon, which chilled the slab by 2-3 degrees per hour from 72 degrees until it reached about 20 degrees.
Student Development Complex building mechanic Andre Soumis pulls a sprayer system across the concrete slab at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena Monday, covering the rink in a layer of white paint, as Michael Stevens carries the hose. Crews put down several layers of paint and painted lines Monday and put down 30 layers of water Tuesday. The ice will be ready to go for the first time Saturday. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
Monday morning, crews started flooding, a process that involves up to 80 layers, most of them water, but several coats of white paint as well. Each layer takes about 10 minutes to spray down using an elaborate distribution system feeding water or paint down a hose and through hollow copper piping shaped into a rectangle with 14 spray nozzles that spread a thin mist.
"It's a better bond when you flood it slowly," Associate Athletic Director of Facilities and Operations Dave Nordstrom said.
Andre Soumis, an SDC building mechanic and Zamboni driver who has been flooding indoor rinks for 30 years, handled the sprayer Monday, walking back and forth much like a Zamboni, while seven workers carried the hose. Soumis, Nordstrom and Facilities and Special Events Manager Chris Roy each have at least 28 years of experience flooding the rink.
MacInnes Arena timeline
$1.3 million ice plant construction began, replacing original Freon-based system with a new ammonia-based system
Concrete poured on about 13 miles of new piping
Lines painted and rink flooding started
First ice rental scheduled
After spreading a few thin layers of pure water, which froze quickly, crews mixed powdered white paint with water and channeled it through the sprayer. Several coats of the paint, which dried almost instantly, gave the surface its vibrant white base before a couple sealing coats of water were put applied on top.
Then began the tedious process of precisely painting lines, creases and rink markings, while laying down logos and sealing by spraying the edges and surface of them with water.
Tech uses Jet Ice paint, which is specially made for ice rinks, but instead of painting the logos like they've done in the past, crews use mesh logos.
"Before we used to paint all these logos on the rink and last year we bought the logos and they're reusable," Nordstrom said.
Fans may have noticed in the past couple of years a Winter Carnival logo has not been put on the ice, but a banner is hung from the east wall of the arena instead. Once sealing layers of water are applied, the markings will be the same until the ice is removed in the spring.
Tuesday crews spayed on about 30 more layers, building the ice to about 3/4 of an inch.
"It's a lot of walking, but these guys do a great job," Roy said.
The Zamboni builds the ice up to about an inch from there, which is what the depth will be for Saturday's first ice skating rental, but the depth is typically 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches.
For information on renting the ice at MacInnes Arena between 6 and 1:30 a.m., call 487-2578.
For more information on the $1.3 million ice plant construction project that took place at the MacInnes over the summer, see the July 12, June 9 and March 28 Daily Mining Gazette sports articles online.