Making an Olympic ice rink

How to build a professional-quality ice rink

Dave Wescott is one of America’s top ice-rink technicians. He has overseen the construction and maintenance of rinks used for hockey and figure-skating competitions in several Winter Olympics. The following infographic explains his construction process.

COMPRESSOR EXPANSION VALVE CHILLER FREON COOLING SYSTEM A network of pipes circulates antifreeze through the foundation of frozen sand. SUB-FLOOR A network of pipes heats the ground beneath the layer of insulation; this prevents permafrost, which would cause the ice above to heave. INSULATION Insulation creates a vapor barrier between the heated sub-floor and the frozen foundation. FOUNDATION Ice rinks for the Olympics are often set up temporarily and have foundations of frozen sand. BASIC REFRIGERATION The antifreeze circulating in pipes underneath the rink carries heat away to a chiller. Inside the chiller, it brings this heat close by a separate network of pipes that contain Freon. Due to proximity and a temperature differential, the heat from the antifreeze transfers to the Freon. The antifreeze, now at a much colder temperature, leaves the chiller. The Freon also leaves the chiller, with the heat. It passes through a compressor, then an expansion valve. This process of compression and expansion rapidly dissipates the heat from the gas. HUMAN SCALE ICE LAYERS Technicians build up thin layers of ice on a frozen foundation. They use water mixed with white paint to make some initial layers. On this white ice, they paint graphics. Then, they continue layering with clear ice until the surface reaches a thickness of about an inch. It could require as many as 50 layers.
Human scale 1 2 3 4 5 1 ICE LAYERS Technicians build up thin layers of ice on a frozen foundation. They use water mixed with white paint to make some initial layers. On this white ice, they paint graphics. Then, they continue layering with clear ice until the surface reaches a thickness of about an inch. It could require as many as 50 layers. 2 FOUNDATION Ice rinks for the Olympics are often set up temporarily and have foundations of frozen sand. 3 INSULATION Insulation creates a vapor barrier between the heated sub-floor and the frozen foundation. 4 SUB-FLOOR A network of pipes heats the ground beneath the layer of insulation; this prevents permafrost, which would cause the ice above to heave. CHILLER COMPRESSOR ANTIFREEZE EXPANSION VALVE FREON GAS 5 COOLING SYSTEM A network of pipes circulates antifreeze through the foundation of frozen sand. BASIC REFRIGERATION The antifreeze circulating in pipes underneath the rink carries heat to a chiller. Inside the chiller, it brings this heat close by a separate network of pipes that contain Freon. Due to proximity and a temperature differential, the heat from the antifreeze transfers to the Freon. The antifreeze, now at a much colder temperature, leaves the chiller. The Freon also leaves the chiller, with the heat. It passes through a compressor , then an expansion valve. This process of compression and expansion rapidly dissipates the heat from the gas.

Jacob Benison, Information Graphic, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 04 February 2006

More Stories

From a landfill to a public park

Officials expect the modern procedures that were used to close a landfill will also make problems that have occurred in other communities less likely. Read.

Solve the Rubik’s Cube: 3 steps

With around 43 quintillion possible ways of arranging its pieces, solving the Rubik’s Cube remains a mystery for many. Learn how to conquer the popular puzzle using this three-phase method. Read.

Deputy’s SUV collides with bystander’s car

A college professor returning to his lab after dinner finds himself in the middle of a high-speed police chase. His car is totaled, and a patrol vehicle overturns. Read.