Explaining How the Winter Classic Ice Rink is Being Built at Citizens Bank Park

This week, NHL crews invaded Citizens Bank Park, the ballpark they will call their own for the next two weeks or so. Construction of the rink began today, just behind the pitcher’s mound. 

NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig and Senior Vice President of Events and Entertainment Don Renzulli met with the media to talk about the rink building process, which will take about a week. 

Your questions, answered.


What are they doing down there, I never know what they’re doing down there?!

Good question, Chaz.

They’re building a hockey rink. Two of them, in fact. Last month, a military grade platform was placed over much of the field, surrounding the area where the main rink will be built. Photo: 

Screen Shot 2011-12-19 at 8.58.59 PM

The platform serves a duel purposes. Most importantly, it protects the grass so, you know, there can be a baseball season next year. Second, it provides workers with stable ground on which to move equipment and machinery. It will also presumably aid in some aesthetic function once the build is complete. 


Today, crews began to build the actual rink itself, which will be placed in the grassy area behind the mound where Cliff Lee normally pisses his pre-inning excellence.* This will take about three days to build before any water is sprayed.

*I’d imagine that if and when Claude Giroux skates along the boards closest to the mound, he’s going to pick up on the scent and hose his own special blend of frozen excellence deep into the cold January air. But that’s just speculation… we don’t know if it’s going to come out frozen or not.

Awesome, sounds fun. How is the rink built? 

To start, crews placed a myriad wooden planks on the field. They will serve as the foundation for the rink structure. Each panel is rectangular in shape and about two feet in length. The boards are not nailed down to the grass– rather, they’re just laid out in a semi-tiled formation. Most have small metal fixtures which not only create lift, but also – and perhaps more importantly – help keep the surface level. 

On top of the foundation, deck material will be placed. Which can be seen in today’s pictures:



This essentially becomes a stage– a raised, flat deck. Next comes large aluminum panels (Tuesday) – roughly 300 of them, elevated slightly by wood (as best as I understand it) – that will have antifreeze (Glycol) pumped beneath them. It’s these large, quick-freezing aluminum panels that will have water sprayed onto them to create the ice surface. In total, the playing surface will be about a foot and a half off the field, give or take, with the ice surface totaling around two inches in thickness. Water needed to do that? Around 20,000 gallons.


Wait, did you say antifreeze?

I did. 3,000 gallons of antifreeze will be pumped beneath the ice. It turns out they technically don’t freeze the ice at all.


So how does it freeze, Kyle? Is it Christmas Magic? Please tell me it’s Christmas magic!

No, Tiny Tim, it’s not Christmas Magic. It turns out that instead of freezing the ice, pipes under the aluminum will actually remove heat from the surface area and pump it up to the refrigeration truck, which then blows it out an exhaust. The removal of heat, coupled with temperatures ranging anywhere from -2 to the mid-fifties, is enough to keep the ice frozen. Refrigeration 101, I was told.



Not lies. You can see a further explanation in this video from last year:


But what if it never gets below zero, how does the ice freeze?

Well, that’s why they usually spray the first layer at night. The biggest challenge is not heat, per say– it’s sunlight. 

Craig explains:

“Earlier today wasn’t so good with the bright sunshine, but right now we could work with this any day we want to play the game. From that, what we’re gonna do is hopefully by the 22nd we’ll be in good shape to be able to spray later at night. It looks like it’s gonna be warmer during the day so we might as well use the benefit of being down into the 40s and high-30s to make a good sheet of ice. You won’t see a whole lot of work, if you watch the webcam, on the ice surface itself during the day. It will happen, a lot of it at night, probably by security lighting and so on because that’s the best time for us to work.

When we come back after the Christmas break, if we get a Christmas break, we’re not too sure what Mother Nature’s gonna do here, the first thing is that we’re gonna make sure that we have an inch of ice and then what we’re gonna do is spray it white, just like we would in a normal rink and then on the 28th, we’re gonna put down our logos and go for line painting and then be ready be ready to go for a skate for the great media corps for the 30th.”


Guinea pigs, those media folks. Sadly, this blogger had to buy his $60 ticket to skate on January 7.



Indeed it is.


But you’ve written more about the Winter Classic than anyone else. Hell, you wrote about it months before it was even official, leaked the game’s logo and were one of the first to post the jerseys before the were unveiled! Surely, thousands of people learned about the game on your site.

You’re preaching to the choir, Timmy. Let’s get back to the rink…


Well, shouldn’t they let the players to be the first to skate on the ice, anyway?

No. In fact, the more the ice is skated on and resurfaced, the stronger it will become. Craig explains again:

“It doesn’t matter where you are. It doesn’t matter what facility you’re in. You always try to, especially if you have a bigger club skating on it, you want to make sure you have it chewed up a little bit so we can basically heal it, let it heal itself and flood it back up. Density on a sheet of ice is the No. 1 thing we deal with.”


Essentially, it will eventually fill in its own cracks.


Cool… so what about those giant pumps, and the second rink?

Well, the second rink will be constructed similarly and used for pond hockey to help create the atmosphere surrounding the game… and provide a visual distraction to fill the vast field… which also presents a challenge for running pumps to a truck located outside the ballpark.


The pumps - two of them: a six-inch main for the large rink and a four-inch main for the pond - will run through center field, up a scaffolding alongside a 1,500-seat platform constructed in front of the batter’s eye wall (damn, was looking forward to seeing the ivy), over Ashburn Alley, out an open window and into the Winter Classic truck strategically placed behind the stadium. 


Next two via NHL.com:

Screen Shot 2011-12-19 at 9.17.06 PM
Screen Shot 2011-12-19 at 9.17.06 PM

Craig told me that this is the first time the league has dealt with such an elevation difference – for an outside rink – between its truck and the playing surface, but they did handle an even greater elevation difference at the NCAA Frozen Four at Ford Field with no problems.


What else? There’s more than just the rink, you know.

I know. We’ll let Renzulli explain:

“We’ll start out in left field foul poll, as we come around there will be two major stage components out there, which are two hockey sticks, that look like goalie sticks, and they’ll flair out to the foul poll. In the middle of that, will be a giant puck, about 35-feet in diameter. We will also do an extensive decor program here, where we take care of all the field walls, this fence in front, and a lot of the faces you see, the boards that you see in the building here.

We added about 1,500 seats to center field, as you can see. They are almost completed, by the end of this week will be completed. There’s a lot of decor that goes on the front there. And as you come around to right field, there will be two host positions: one for NBC and one for CBC. That’s where you’ll see Bob Costas do his intermission reports from. As you come around, where these guys are standing behind here (just beyond second base), that’s where these guys are going to call the game: CBC and NBC will both have a position there. First time this year we’ve moved the pond ice to this decking system right here, between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. In the past when we’ve been in baseball parks, it’s been in center field. We’ll move that closer to the fans this year. In front of that by home plate, is another stage where the anthems will be sung.”


Video here:


What about the mound, did they have to flatten it?

Nope. Doc wouldn’t let them.

Kidding– it’s still there. They worked around it.


What about outside the stadium?

My fingers are getting tired… we’ll let Renzulli explain again:

“There’s another thing on outside on Citizens Bank Way which is Spectator Plaza. We will open that up the fans, our sponsors. There will be merchandise, a band, video board, food and beverage. Really a place to go enjoy yourself prior to the game. So once it gets opened for Alumni Game on the 31st, that will stay open right through until we drop the puck on about 1:28 on January 2nd. As you can see, we probably have a good couple hundred people in the park today, romaing the field and underneath the stadium getting prepared. It’ll ramp up each day as we go. I think Dan already explained what is going on behind me, but this will start to take shape pretty quickly. Ice by Thursday.”


There you have it. That’s the Winter Classic scene at CBP. We may head back down later in the week to get some more photos and video, but you can always click that “live stream” link on the homepage. 

Here’s what it will look like when finished:

image from mobilwi.typepad.com

Nice. What says you, Jimmy?

Philly Sports Daily has another photo gallery.

NHL.com has another video. And an interview with Craig.

H/T to Dave Isaac of Philly Sports Daily for an assist on some of the transcriptions.


7 Responses

  1. kind of sucks that the giants bleacher section in centerfield will block about 90% of the view from ashburn alley. Kyle any word on who is dropping the first puck?

  2. Are they really going to cover all the wall sponsors with all that blue? I don’t see the sponsors being ok with that.

  3. I’m making an assumption here, but they’re probably using a glycol/water mix through the pipes under the ice. Straight glycol has a higher freezing point. Once it’s mixed with water (about 60/40 glycol/water), the freezing point goes down to around -50F. Yes, I’m a geek (I work in the fluid flow industry).
    Either way, I hope it’s cold and snowy, but not TOO cold. I don’t want to still be stuck to my seat in right field when Pence strolls out there in April!

  4. Very well explained. Now can you explain why it will cost $20,000 to play a game on the ice and why $60 per person for a public skate. Who’s making out on those deals?

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