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This section is about building a backyard ice rink. The methods employed require no snow, a few common materials, and lots of water.

My success rate has been greatly improved because of the tutorage of a Cubs fan named Bill Goodell. His timely advice has saved me time and effort. I have enjoyed learning from his experiences, and hope to share some of them.

Experiences with Ice

I grew up around ice rinks. My dad was a hockey player and a hockey fan. When he'd go to play hockey, I'd come along. We'd go to the Owens Center in Peoria, Illinois for hockey games. I'd sometimes watch Dad and the others play, but almost always watched the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine before and after the game. A basic understanding of how the machine works is the basis for maintainence procedures on my ice.

As a kid, I'd make a rink on the patio by dumping buckets of cold water on it. Over the course of the season, it would eventually get to be as thick as 3/4 inch. While we never tried skated on this ice, we did use real ice pucks rather than street hockey pucks. I found to keep the ice slick enough to enjoy, I needed to dump a bucket of water on there each day. I also found that it was a bad idea to walk on the ice before it had frozen.

A few years before the turn of the century (the 21st century), we moved to Southern Illinois. Southern Illinois does not get cold enough for an ice rink (once you get south of Lincoln, Illinois it's probably not going to be worth the effort.) The first week of January 2000, there was an ice storm which iced over the parking lot across the street. I went out in shorts and flip flops (Southern Illinois does not get cold. It approaches "cool", but never quite gets to cold.) Again, we used ice pucks rather than driveway pucks, and this time real sticks too. :-) We didn't try skating on this rink, either.

It wasn't until we moved back to the Peoria area that I got really ambitious. It was time for ice to skate on. I read all that I could find on construction of an outdoor ice rink on the Internet, and read another article in a hockey newspaper called Hockey Stop, but couldn't find any real help. The article in Hockey Stop required lots of snow, which is not guaranteed in this area. My design had to be able to produce skatable ice with little need for snow. Luckily, this happens to lakes and rivers across the country, so copying the design was only natural.

The successful rinks I've built have been of the "shallow pool" style, and will continue to be. With this design, a frame is built where you want the rink and the frame is lined with some form of water tight liner. The liner is then filled to the desired ice depth (or higher) and the water allowed to freeze. This initial fill is one of the major tenets in this design. Other designs call for building ice depth slowly.

For more on this design, head over to the construction section.

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