Emera Oval

Halifax’s Oval transforms from concrete to ice

The skating rink is set to reopen for the winter season Dec. 15

Brooks Carmody and Bernie Cooper started their afternoon shift by rolling out the water hose.   Grace Power

The Emera Oval continued to be flooded with water for ice-making Thursday in preparation for another winter skating season, which is expected to start Dec. 15.

Brooks Carmody, assistant operations manager at Nustadia Recreation, the company hired by the Halifax Regional Municipality for Oval ice maintenance, looks forward to setting up every winter. 

“It’s like a kid playing in a sandbox, for me,” he said.

When Carmody and his team started putting the rink together on Nov. 15, they placed around 800 thick, rubber mats around the surface, along with metal fencing.

Metal fencing and rubber mats are placed around the Oval before it gets flooded with water to make ice.   Grace Power

On Dec. 1 the team began to fill the rink with water to make ice. Carmody said a refrigeration unit pumps cold ethylene glycol through permanent metal pipes underneath the rink’s concrete floor. This helps to push heat out from under the Oval and keeps the floor a frigid -13 C.

Pipes from a refrigeration unit keep the floor of the Oval freezing cold.   Grace Power

When the rink became cool enough, they began to flood it with water. The team starts flooding by unwinding around 600 feet of hose.

On Thursday, Bernie Cooper unravelled the 600-foot hose.   Grace Power

They pull it all the way across the Oval, which is equivalent in size to three NHL hockey rinks, according to the HRM.

Josh Baxendale held onto the hose as the team pulled it across the rink.   Grace Power

Then, they begin to spray water from the hose onto the surface of the rink. Carmody said they use the hose to get the thickness of the ice up to half an inch, which usually takes several days.

Brooks says it often takes five or six trips around the rink before the ice reaches half an inch in thickness.   Grace Power

When enough ice is down, Carmody said the team will lay two-inch thick rope around the inner and outer edges of the oval, freezing or “tacking” it in place. He said the lengths of rope serve as “boards” to hold in the final total of two ½ inches of ice in place.

The team will spray water on the rope to “tack” it to the surface of the Oval.   Grace Power

Carmody said that if all goes well, they will lay the rope down Friday. He also hopes to start rolling blue and red paint onto the ice on Friday, to create lanes for speed skating.

Finally, the team will bring in a tanker truck filled with water and use it to layer on an additional two inches of ice.

The Emera Oval was originally installed by the HRM for the 2011 Canada Winter Games. After the games, the municipality reopened the Oval to the public for free. The HRM budgeted nearly $390,000 toward the Oval in 2017.

Carmody said he has been working on maintenance for the Oval since it opened, first for the HRM, then for Nustadia.

Visitors can in-line skate on the Oval from June 1 to Sept. 30 and ice skate from Dec. 15 to March 15.

The Oval is off limits to the public for now, and will reopen on Dec. 15.   Grace Power

Joelle Monaghan, who lives nearby, said she’s gone skating a couple of times a year since it opened. She likes that it’s free because anyone can participate, regardless of socioeconomic background.

“I think it’s great for the city because it’s free activity for people to do and get exercise,” she said.

Carmody agrees.

“Because it’s a free venue here, I think that it’s a thankful job,” he said. “I get a lot of feedback from the public and they’re all quite happy.”

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