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Crews are busy making ice nice

More than 50,000 linear feet of plastic pipe runs the length of the arena. A refrigerant will be pumped through those pipes to keep the ice cold.

When most Tiger hockey fans come back to Schmitz-Maki Ice Arena for the first games of the 2010-11 season, they really won't notice anything different.

The colors are the same inside. The words "Home of the Tigers" are still spelled out of the far wall. The bleacher seating will still be, well, bleacher seating.

They'll notice the new dasherboards around the ice. Those will be a sign improvements were in fact made to the arena during the off-season.

What they won't see is the intricate maze of plastic piping and wire mesh that sits below the ice floor. They might catch a glimpse into the mechanical room where a brine machine holds the refrigerant and a condenser circulates that refrigerant under the ice.

The new stuff, that is.

A lot of that stuff isn't going to be visible to most people -- after Tuesday, the plastic piping and wire mesh won't be visible to anyone -- but that doesn't mean it's not important. All that stuff is what is going to keep the ice hard for years to come.

This was a big week in the Schmitz-Maki project. It was the week when concrete was poured so it could harden before ice making can commence in September.

The new system

Basically, an entirely new refrigeration system has been installed at the arena. The previous system was in place for about 35 years, according to Farmington parks and recreation director Randy Distad.

The new system does the same thing -- makes ice -- but in a much more compact, and eventually cost-effective way.

On top of the sand base under the arena, styrofoam has been installed as insulation. Over that styrofoam is a layer of plastic sheeting, which is in place to act as a vapor barrier.

There are thousands of little hook-like holders installed in the floor. They're called "chairs," and they're in place to act as a seat to the more than 50,000 linear feet of plastic tubing strung from north to south across the length of the arena.

Through that tubing will run all of the refrigerant needed to make the ice. There is an additional set of tubing down the center called "headers." That's in place to circulate new refrigerant from the mechanical room out to the rest of the tubing, then to "push back" the refrigerant so it can stay constantly cool.

A wire mesh was strung both north and south, and east and west across the tubing. It's in place to act as reinforcement to the concrete that was poured Tuesday morning.

The refrigerant is held i a 1,000-gallon brine tank in the mechanical room. Tubing that brings the refrigerant to the chiller will be installed later. From the chiller, the refrigerant goes into the condenser, which then sends it out to the floor.

"It will pretty much look the same because all the detail work we have done is all under the concrete," Distad said.


The crews of Northland Concrete and Masonry arrived at the ice arena and were ready to be started around 6 a.m. Tuesday. By 8:30 a.m., they were half done with the job.

They'd come out Monday to bring out large fans and smoothing equipment. A series of hoses was stretched the length of the arena floor and used to funnel concrete in because the trucks couldn't fit through the arena doors.

Tuesday morning Northland brought out a crew of 20 employees who, within hours, had poured and smoothed over 261 yards of concrete across the ice arena floor.

It might seem a little premature to be thinking about ice on a late July day that was hot and sticky outdoors, but Distad said the timing is right on schedule.

"We need to start flooding by mid- to late September so we wanted to have have couple of weeks to make sure everything was going to work out all right," Distad said.

"From a project management standpoint, things went pretty smoothly. Pretty much like clockwork," he added.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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