'About a quarter-inch at a time'

Building the Taos ice rink takes attention to detail

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 11/7/19

Taoseños are eager to hit the ice for this year's winter skating season and town crews are hard at work building up the rink. But just what does it take to make the frozen sheet for figure and hockey skaters to slide on?

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'About a quarter-inch at a time'

Building the Taos ice rink takes attention to detail

Posted

Taoseños are eager to hit the ice for this year's winter skating season and town crews are hard at work building up the rink. But just what does it take to make the frozen sheet for figure and hockey skaters to slide on?

"The rink is actually built mist by mist," said ice builder Chris Cordova. "It's an art, in all honesty."

Cordova has been working for the Taos Youth and Family Center building the ice rink each year for the past 10 years.

From the summer basketball courts to the frigid pond, Cordova and his team transform the rink from the ground up each year for the community to enjoy.

It starts with the paint.

Lorenzo Martinez is a 15-year veteran of ice building and said he still has people ask him why their ice at home is clear and not white. His answer is simple. White paint.

The crew paints the floor with a white base coat to make the hockey lines stand out when the ice is finished. Once the paint dries, a thin layer of mist is sprayed on the entire surface to "seal" the paint in.

Compressors keep the ice between 12 and 16 degrees for the freezing process and crews must work with the cold air being circulated beneath their feet.

As the mist freezes, workers then roll out vinyl lines to mark the circles and zones for regulation hockey play.

"The most challenging part is being precise with the lines," Martinez said.

Four faceoff circles on each end of the ice must be exactly 15 feet in diameter. Any deviation and the rink may not be deemed official for play. The entire process to lay the lines down takes a few hours with a five-person crew, but Cordova said there were years when he and Martinez did all the work.

Once the lines are in place, another light mist is sprayed on the ice to keep them from moving. Next comes the logos and sponsors that must appear on the ice. Each logo is meticulously laid and sprayed with water to freeze them to the floor.

"You build [the ice] about a quarter-inch at a time," Cordova said.

Water is misted onto the frozen floor and builds up thin layers of ice at a time until it measures about 1.5 inches. Each layer must be evenly sprayed with a misting machine to ensure a solid coat of ice. At less than a quarter of an inch at a time, building the ice rink takes numerous passes with the misting machine before the ice resurfacer and edger come in to smooth it out for skating.

"It's cool because when you watch a [hockey] game on TV you can say, 'Hey I can make [that rink],'" Martinez said.

Ice time was delayed one week this year due to a few factors, according to Martinez. The system was equipped with new digital technology that makes it more simple to remotely control the compressors, but weather is the most important factor in determining when the ice is built.

Taos' rink is, for the most part, an outdoor rink. This means that there is no sure way to control the temperature around the rink without keeping the compressors going nonstop. Weather must be chilly enough for the ice to not "sweat" or bead up with water droplets.

Warmer air gets into the rink area and causes the ice to heat up, which causes the compressors to strain to keep the ice at 16 degrees. In addition, humid air can cause additional issues when building or resurfacing the ice.

Humidity causes condensation to build up on the rafters in the rink and eventually drops of water fall to the ice. These drops can freeze and cause bumps in the ice that are dangerous to skaters and resurfacing equipment.

"An open air rink is very challenging," Martinez said.

Despite the challenges, Martinez and Cordova's crew will be working through the week to finish the ice and plan to have everything ready by Saturday (Nov. 9) to open the doors.

The Youth and Family Center at 407 Paseo del Cañón East will also be welcoming in their new ice resurfacing vehicle and are planning to have that by the end of the month.

"The kids are itching to get on this ice," Cordova said.

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