OLDSMAR — One hundred-fifty tons of sand, 1,200 sheets of insulation and 11 miles of steel pipes carrying R-22 refrigerant — all buried below the surface of the ice.
Keeping it cool is what it's all about as Tampa Bay Skating Academy prepares to unveil its newly renovated north rink, one of two NHL regulation-size rinks at 255 Forest Lakes Blvd.
The transformation began June 27 and the big reveal is slated for Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day. The north rink originally opened in 1995. While it's been ripped up, skaters have been sharing the south rink during summer, when usage is down.
"It'll be all good and new," said Diane Paul, the rink's marketing director. "It will make for much smoother ice and skating."
The renovations will cost more than $300,000, officials said. TBSA, owned and operated by FLG Pinellas, otherwise known as the Fun League Group, hired Ice Builders of Syracuse, N.Y., to oversee the makeover.
Besides a much-improved skating surface, there will be new rubber matting around the perimeter of the 200- by 85-foot rink, freshly painted deep blue walls, porcelain tile in the shower rooms and other touches.
According to rink manager Glyn Jones, the renovation was necessary because a subfloor heating system wasn't operating correctly, affecting the ice above.
"The ground was freezing and it made the ice heave. It was popping up and the surface was uneven," he said.
Two miles of polyvinyl chloride pipes that carry glycol (antifreeze) were installed and covered with two layers of insulation. After that, steel cooling pipes carrying the refrigerant were put back in place and secured. Sand will be packed between the pipes and saturated with water.
"Then we turn on the refrigeration system and it freezes like concrete," Jones said. "We build up the ice from there to between 11/4 to 11/2 inches thick."
Parents and other spectators will have a better view as they watch from the bleachers, the skating academy says. New tempered glass will surround the rink, replacing the plexiglass that can obscure views with scratches and condensation buildup.
In addition to the current renovations, the south rink received some repair work to its subfloor heating system last summer.
And two years ago, the facility purchased all-electric Icecat resurfacing machines, which produce no emissions.
The rink came under scrutiny in March 2009 when an ESPN crew tested the air and reported high levels of ultrafine pollution particles they said could settle deeply into the lungs and cause health problems. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide were reported safe on the day tested. Older resurfacing machines were said to be the culprit.
TBSA was one of 34 ice skating rinks tested across the country.
Earlier that year, members of an East Lake hockey team got sick after a practice and complained of nausea and breathing problems. Two coughed up blood.
Rink officials have denied that the incident was related to their former resurfacing equipment, which ran on propane. Jones said no other incidents have been reported to him since, and he said he knows of no way to test for ultrafine pollutants.
"It might have been a cold virus going around the team," he said, noting that skaters on the ice before and after never complained of symptoms.
Paul said the electric machines were on order to replace the propane-powered machines before the ESPN report came out.
"The important part is, we are a unique part of the community and are very proud of what we do here," she said. "We are very conscientious. The air quality was tested daily before the ESPN report and is still tested daily."
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at [email protected]