Winter Classic Rink Construction Begins

The world’s largest mobile refrigeration unit arrived at Nationals Stadium Monday morning as the countdown to the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic continues. Arriving from Toronto after five days and 480 miles, the Winter Classic Ice Plant Presented by York is a 53-foot trailer that houses ice making and monitoring equipment designed to make and maintain an NHL-caliber sheet of ice. Former Washington Capitals Peter Bondra and Sylvain Cote were on hand for the festivities.

“In my days, obviously if the rink is close to somebody’s house, we can take water in the bucket and pour it at the evening when everything freezes,” Bondra, a Poprad, Slovakia native said. “The technology (now) is really great and I’m looking forward to … me being part of this event, the Winter Classic.”

NHL senior director of facilities, Dan Craig, also addressed the media regarding rink construction, saying that the rink should start to resemble an NHL sheet of ice by Friday when the crew starts making ice.

“It has 300 tons of refrigeration, which is even larger than what’s at the Verizon Center,” Craig said of the mobile unit, which the NHL built specifically for events like the Winter Classic after the league’s inaugural Winter Classic in 2008. “Every day that we do something’s going to be a little bit of a challenge.”

Craig noted that building the rink on a sunny day, much like the day the refrigeration unit arrived, is difficult. Workers will have to cover the ice surface with tarps to prevent things like painted lines and logos from melting. He said that on sunny days it is best to simply wait until night time to begin working.

Despite the sunshine, Craig is happy with the weather he and his crew will be working with when they begin construction.

“It’s great to start without having a big parka on and big work gloves and such, so I think it’s going to be a fun day,” he said.

The 200 workers who will be building the outdoor rink will use about 20,000 gallons of water to create a two-inch surface of ice and 3,000 gallons of glycol coolant to freeze the rink. To make the ice white, the NHL will use 350 gallons of water soluble paint. About 25,000 feet of electrical cable is needed to power the rink, stages, audio systems and other electrical equipment. To lay the foundation for the rink, the NHL uses 32,000 square feet of decking and 52,000 feet of plywood.

Another interesting piece of technology the NHL works with to create outdoor rinks is something called Eye On The Ice, a system that uses drone technology to allow Craig and others to observe the ice-making process remotely on an iPhone.

“I can go for dinner and I can still be looking at (the ice) and saying I know exactly what the temperature is. If the guys are working, I know exactly when they’re putting water down because it’ll tell me,” Craig said.

The Capitals and Blackhawks will face off in the annual New Year’s Day showdown at 1 p.m. at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C.