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The Anatomy of an Ice Rink

November 14, 2012

Ken Thomasma recalls learning to make the first ice skating rink at Kelly Elementary. Read his first entry about the genesis of the annual tradition here!

The time was approaching for the beginning of construction on our first ice skating rink at Kelly School. So was I going to go about building a large rink with only a garden hose? I knew I couldn’t build it directly on grass or dirt. The first requirement was at least four inches (or more) of snow. Next, I would need nighttime temperatures below freezing, and better yet, below zero.

It was November of 1979 and a week before Thanksgiving when a storm came, dropping eight inches of snow. With the snow, I was ready to begin, but what next? I realized I would have to pack the snow down before getting out the hose. I had the solution. I climbed into my four-wheel drive pickup truck and drove it onto the playground. Around and around I went, driving over the snow in circles. Next, I drove back and forth. The tires packed the snow, but not smoothly. I needed to rake it to eliminate the ruts and grooves.

Finally, I was ready to apply the first coat of water. This would take three or four hours. The reason for the four hours of work was because I needed to saturate the snow with just the right about of water, while using my boots to pack the wet snow as evenly as possible. Back and forth I tramped the wet snow, making dozens of trips across the rink. I was fortunate that first year to have ideal temperatures. When I left after having covered the entire surface, I returned the next day to a relatively hard foundation. Now I started at the northeast corner adding more water and doing more careful stomping with my boots. Two more hours of work, and I headed home again.

When I returned the next day, I began the third application of water. I saw the first signs of eventual success. Many pools of standing water appeared. As I kept returning to add more water, more and even larger pools of standing water appeared. I was on the way to a surface of solid ice. Then I noticed a problem. Bubbles showed up on the ice where there were small holes allowing water to drain down to the earth below. The solution was to go to the side of the rink with a shovel and return with snow. I dropped snow on all of the small holes I could find. Then I added water to make slush that I tamped down into the hole to seal it.

Since there was a slight slope north to south, I always started adding water on the north end and worked my way south. After about thirty-two hours of work, the ice rink was ready for the first skaters. The next blog features the big day! After lunch, the first of thirty three ice rinks at Kelly Elementary School would welcome its first little skaters!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sylvia Harber permalink
    November 14, 2012 12:54 pm

    What a wonderful story of days gone by. My kids loved that rink and we enjoyed helping upgrade it through the years. Son Matt Harber was nicknamed “The Great Gretzky” by Mr. T. Those school memories are still their favorites.


  1. The First Skaters! « Grandview Publishing

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