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Sports Trivia: How to Make Ice

October 15, 2015

Uncle John’s always wondered: How on Earth can they play hockey in Miami? Here is some sports trivia to help kick off hockey season. 

Freezing in Florida

It’s a common question from hockey fans: How do they maintain the ice in hockey rinks, especially in warm-weather places like Florida? To answer these and other questions, we caught up with Ken Friedenberger, Director of Facility Operations for the St. Petersburg Times Forum, home of the 2004 Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning.

How is Ice Made - Sports Trivia

He gave us the simple rundown:

  • Two layers of sand and gravel mixture form the foundation of the ice. The two layers and the precise mixture, Friedenberger said, prevent it from freezing into permafrost (perpetually frozen soil), which would “eventually crack the piping and turn it into a big mess, which would took like spaghetti.”
  • “The piping” he refers to is perhaps the most important part of the rink. Five to ten miles of it run under and through a massive concrete slab that sits on the base. A liquid similar to antifreeze is cooled by massive air conditioning units to below freezing and pumped through the piping, making the temperature of the concrete slab below freezing, too.
  • Water is hosed onto the concrete and allowed to freeze in a very thin layer. When it’s frozen, more water is added and allowed to freeze, another layer is added…and the process is repeated until there are 24 layers of ice, each one from 3⁄4 of an inch to a full inch thick.
  • When all of this is finished, the ice surface temperature hovers between 22°F and 26°F. And because of the constantly cooled concrete below, the temperature inside the stadium stays in the 60s or 70s even when the air temperature outside is in the 90s.
  • The lines, circles, and spots are painted on before each game, and four to five new layers of ice are frozen over them to protect them.
  • A Zamboni machine smoothes out the ice before a game—and it’s time for the opening faceoff.

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Sports Spectacular

This story was first published in Uncle John’s Sports Spectacular.

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Dan Bechard
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Dan Bechard

Umm, I don’t think each layer is 3/4″ to 1″ thick. Perhaps the total is that much? Also, I’d be very surprised if the lines are repainted each game.

John Chew
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The total thickness is 0.75-1 inch, not each of the layers!

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