COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Despite unseasonably warm temperatures outside, it’s beginning to feel like hockey season at Nationwide Arena.
Hours after the venue wrapped up its first concert in more than a year and a half, workers spent six hours replacing the stage with hockey boards and began cooling the arena to the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit. In the late afternoon, they lowered the floor temperature to prepare for the ice rink.
Monday morning, the crew returned at 5 a.m. to prep the floor with several layers of water. Once frozen, they applied a white base paint, followed by more layers of water and painted red lines, blue lines and goal creases. The team’s center logo, as well as sponsor logos, which are made of a mesh cloth, were then placed and sealed with layers of water.
“It’s about a half-day to kind of get everything in and painted. Then we’ll take another two and a half days to build it up to an inch and a quarter,” said ice technician Ian Huffman.
Huffman explained the process is painstakingly meticulous, with each line painted according to NHL specifications, which are strictly monitored with a growing number of high definition cameras.
“It’s even more important [than ever] to make sure everything’s straight, precise, the paint’s inside the lines,” he said. “[It’s] all that stuff that we’ve been doing in the past. But you can definitely pick it up now on TV or a goal post cam or something like that.”
After the logos and lines are set on Monday, the workers will spend several more days building layers of ice with about 15,000 gallons of water. The goal is to maintain a 1-1.5 inch surface for the season.
“We’ll check the depths throughout the year to make sure we’re not getting too low in spots or too high, [do] daily maintenance when the team’s skating, post concerts and different shows we’ll clean up the beer spills and things like that,” Huffman said.
The ice is covered by flooring material during concerts and events during the hockey season, then maintained by Huffman’s team throughout the year. He said watching the players skate on it is a point of pride.
“It’s nice to see the finished product once today’s all over. It stays in all year, we maintain it all year. Hopefully, it stays in for quite a while this year,” he said.
CBJ training camp starts Wednesday with medicals and physical testing. The first on-ice workouts begin on Thursday. The Blue Jackets face off against the Arizona Coyotes in the home opener on Oct. 14.