Pulling Double Duty

As budgets get tighter and available funds slow to a trickle, many parks departments are looking for ways to use existing space and facilities for more than one purpose.

The city of Barrington, Ill., took a basketball court and doubled it as an ice rink during the winter months after a city project threatened to swallow the parking lot where the rink was previously constructed.

“We looked at using a basketball court, but we were afraid of the residue,” says Stephen Nightingale, Superintendent of Parks & Facilities. City officials then discovered a conversion method that allowed them to turn the court into a temporary ice rink without disturbing the surface.

“We almost certainly would use this method to add more rinks to the area if we were looking to do so,” says Nightingale. “In a situation where we needed a location, we would opt to use something already in existence.” Residents have had positive reactions to the change. “They absolutely loved it,” says Nightingale. “It’s a remote, reserved area, and it’s much nicer for them to come to. Before, it was in an urban environment. Now we have the versatility to change the location as needed.”

Over 700 people use the rink each season–December through February–weather permitting.

Selecting A Site

The first and most important variable to consider when choosing a location for an ice rink is its accessibility to a water source. According to Jim Stoller, president of sales and marketing for NiceRink, proximity to a water source is the difference between an easy flooding and surfacing job, or a difficult one. The next aspect to consider is the pitch or levelness of the site, which will determine how many gallons of water are needed to fill the rink. Stoller says a pitch of 6 inches or less is best, as it takes less effort to install the side boards, uses less water, and requires less time to get the base-ice going. The last factor is the overall size of the rink, which is determined by the amount of space available, the budget and the desired appearance.

It also depends on who will be using the rink–if it is just for children, they don’t need a large space for it to feel “huge.” For experienced skaters, a 30-foot span may not be large enough to keep it entertaining, Stoller warns.

Rink Installation

A rink can be put onto any flat surface, and initial installation takes less than a day.

First, the liner should be laid out and filled with water. It will need to be topped off to smooth out the surface. Any holes from skates from the previous year also should be repaired at this time.

Although there are panels that hold a plastic liner, some creativity can stretch your dollars further. “We use a fence and braced it ourselves,” Nightingale says. “There are brackets that go into the ground, and we enforced it with 2 x 4’s between old concrete slabs.”

“For a couple of thousand dollars of an investment, we have something that is working for us,” says Nightingale. “The siding is fairly permanent, and the liner should last about two to three years.”

Repair And Maintenance

Exactly how do you make ice? And what happens if the surface is not perfect? The folks in Barrington use a snowblower to keep the snow off the rink, and then top off the ice with a sprayer. This is just one way to maintain ice. Methods include:

· Flooding

· Spray and squeegee

· Spray-spray-spray-spray

· Resurfacer

· Zamboni

Flood–This is good to use if water hasn’t been frozen yet and it snows. “The best way to overcome the mess is to totally saturate the snow to the point where it is completely slush and no white, dry snow is visible. This will freeze and be somewhat bumpy, at which time you’ll have to use one of the other methods to smooth it out. Do not use the flood method on smooth ice, you’ll wreck it,” says Stoller.

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