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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Memorial Coliseum employees stuff ice from the rink into a chute that drops into a dump truck below.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Greg Bobay, maintenance supervisor at the Coliseum, readies a stencil to be painted.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Robert Williams paints one of the two blue lines on the ice for a Komets game at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Italo Sanders works on a design on the ice for the GM Fort Wayne Assembly plant.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Italo Sanders works on a design for the GM Fort Waye Assembly plant on the ice at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette The placement for the stencils that are painted onto the ice at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Memorial Coliseum employee Bryan Christie breaks up ice on the edge as ice is removed from the arena in preparation for set up of the circus.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mark Simerman sprays water on the Komets' ice to keep guide lines frozen before painting the lines and advertisements on it.

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette A dump truck waiting below the arena collects ice being removed.

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Ice being cleared from the arena into a hole with a dump truck waiting below.

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Memorial Coliseum employees shove ice being cleared from the arena into a hole with a dump truck waiting below.

Sunday, February 11, 2018 1:00 am

Behind the scenes

From rink to ring to rink

Circus tests crews to remove, restore, paint Coliseum ice

TERRI RICHARDSON | The Journal Gazette

On the ice

The Komets take to the ice at 5 p.m. today against the Quad City Mallards. Tickets are $13 to $28 and are available at Memorial Coliseum box office, www.ticketmaster.com or 1-800-745-3000.

Behind the scenes

This monthly feature offers a peek at what takes place during production at area events or organizations.

The hallways leading to the arena of Memorial Coliseum smelled like a barn on a recent Monday morning.

The odor was a strong reminder that the circus with all its animals had been there over the weekend. But now that the big top had come down, it was time for the hockey rink to go back up in preparation for more action from the Komets.

If you've been to a Komets game, you may be paying more attention to the players and whether the puck makes it into the goal than thinking how the ice, with all its logos and advertisements, got into the rink. What you may not know is that all those logos and words are hand-painted, and it's a process that takes a number of days, starting when the circus comes to town.

In order to get ready for the circus, the ice has to be removed from the arena floor. To do that, the temperature of the coils in the floor are turned up to 32 degrees, so a thin layer of water can form between the ice and floor, says Rich Thoma, facility manager at the Coliseum. This allows the workers to break up the ice and scrape it off the concrete floor underneath.

This year, the process began Jan. 22, a few days before the circus would perform. The Coliseum prepares the ice twice a year – once when the Komets' season begins and then after the circus.

Workers use equipment with scrapers, including the Zamboni, to push the slushy ice to a chute on the south end of the rink and through a hole in the floor. The ice falls through the chute and into a waiting dump truck.

Thoma says they use two dump trucks and usually dump about six to seven loads of ice into the parking lot so it can melt. Workers then use a squeegee to get the water off the floor so it can dry. The whole process takes about four hours, Thoma says.

That's the easy part. It's putting the ice back on that takes the most work, which brings us back to the day after the circus.

On this day, workers are already on the ice marking off lines and circles based on a schematic hanging on a nearby wall that shows where each advertisement and logo should be placed. The ice is a bright white. It is painted white after a thin layer of water is placed on the floor and then allowed to freeze. The process is repeated until several layers have formed.

The temperature of the floor is dropped to about 14 degrees, which allows water and paint to freeze quickly.

Buckets of environmentally friendly paint of various colors sit on tables in the hallway outside the rink. They are divided by color and placed under a picture of the company logo that will be painted on the floor. This is so the painters know what paint color goes with each logo.

But before any painting is done, the stencils for those company logos are brought out onto the ice and placed in the correct position.

Greg Bobay, a maintenance supervisor, and other workers pull out the stencils one by one and put them on the ice. Bobay has been painting the ice for 40 years and doesn't need much direction in what to do.

He grabs a container of blue construction chalk and sprinkles it on top of the stencil, which is perforated with tiny holes in the shape of the logo. Bobay then uses a push broom to move the chalk around the stencil so it will leave the design on the ice once the stencil is removed. This particular logo is for Bud Light.

Once the outlines are placed, the painting begins. Workers use pads to kneel on while painting so they don't freeze to the ice. As soon as the paint is on the ice, it starts to freeze and becomes sticky.

After the painting is finished, it is again sprayed with water and allowed to freeze. The process is then repeated until several more layers are formed and the logos can be seen under the thick ice.

With all that painting, there's bound to be a few mistakes. If a mistake is made, the workers try to use water to mop or wipe it up. Of course, if it's really bad, they can always repaint it white and start over.

trich@jg.net