Crank Up The Zamboni—It’s Time To Start Making Ice At Warinanco

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ROSELLE—It didn’t matter that it was 81 degrees outside. It was time to start making the ice.

So underneath the arching timber roof at Union County’s Warinanco Skating Center, Kyle Gaestel got to work.

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The temperature of the six-inch thick concrete floor was already hovering in the 20s thanks to the ethylene glycol coursing through the steel pipes embedded in the rink floor. So with a 300-foot long, two-inch hose, equipped with a spray nozzle, Gaestel begins to apply a thin layer of water.

“Ideally, it will freeze right away,” said rink manager Donna Hayden. But this Thursday afternoon, it is too warm to freeze quickly and so the staff will have to wait.

After the first quarter-inch of ice is down, it is time to paint the ice-yes, that beautiful white ice is the result of a layer of powdered white paint that is applied, along with the lines needed for ice hockey. Additional ice is layered on top of the paint.

“We try to make each layer as even as possible,” Hayden said.  “This is the most time consuming part.”

The water will be applied another 12 to 15 times until the ice is just the right thickness, she said, noting that each layer of ice is inspected, and problem spots scraped and cleaned, before the next layer is applied. By the time the ice has reached the desired thickness, an estimated 100,000 gallons will have been poured over the floor.

For the past six years, it has been Gaestel’s job to apply each layer and he enjoys the challenge.

“I love it,” he said. And all the effort is worth it, Hayden added. When it comes to skating, Warinanco has one of the highest rankings in the state for the quality of its skating surface.  Last year, NJPowerRanking.com, which covers high school ice hockey, ranked Warinanco number two in its annual survey of the ice at the state’s 50-or-so rinks.

Warinanco’s score of 97 was just three-tenths of a point behind Aspen Ice in Randolph. (Warinanco also scored in the top five when it came to the facility’s locker rooms.)

“We do a lot of research into the making of the ice,” Hayden said. “To rank that high, over arenas like South Mountain or Mennen, we’re really proud of that.”

While many of the rinks around the state are climate-controlled indoor rinks, Warinanco, which is part of Union County’s parks system, dates back to another era.  It is New Jersey’s “best oudoor rink by far,” said the editors of NJPowerRanking after going through all the scores.

But as an outdoor rink, the 48-year-old facility also faces challenges that most rinks do not. Humidity is one of the biggest challenges to maintaining the ice.

“People think about how hot it is, but it’s really the humidity,” Hayden said.

While the floor temperature at an indoor rink can be kept at about 20 degrees because the temperature of the room can be held constant, maintaining the ice at Warinanco requires keeping the floor temperature closer to nine or ten degrees, she said.

The rink, which opens October 17, will host upwards of 43,000 visitors before the last slapshot slams a puck into the boards on March 27.  It serves as home ice for Cranford, Dayton, Johnson, Summit and Westfield High Schools, along with the Cranford Hockey club.

The rink is located on the western end of Warinanco Park, on the park loop just off St. Georges Avenue in Roselle. It is open nearly 18 hours a day to accommodate all the groups and individuals looking for time on the ice.  More details are available at www.ucnj.org/Parks/iceskating.html

Warinanco Making Ice

It’s time to start making the ice at Union County’s Warinanco Skating Center just of St. Georges Avenue in Roselle. Just as he has for the past six skating seasons, Kyle Gaestel  applies a thin layer of water to the concrete floor, which has been chilled to about 20 degrees. Gaestel will repeat the process upwards of 15 times until the floor reaches just the right thickness and consistency.  Hockey players  and coaches ranked the rink number two in the state last year for the high quality of the ice.


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