City workers tested different kinds of ice making on the site of the speedskating oval in Great Chief Park. (Advocate file photo).

City of Red Deer tests ice to create better speedskating oval for Winter Games

Parks department is confident a competition-quality oval can be built

Testing the ice appears to have paid off for the City of Red Deer.

With less than a year to go before the 2019 Canada Winter Games, Red Deer city workers are feeling confident they found the right formula for creating a long-track speedskating oval on artificial turf.

“We got some ice that works well,” said Curtis Martinek, project superintendent with Recreation, Parks and Culture.

The first time was not the charm: A steep temperature drop mid-December contributed to the creation of bubble-prone ice that was not competition-ready and did not stand up to the weight of ice-clearing machinery.

“We had to remove 500-cubic metres of ice because it wasn’t holding up to the weight of the ice resurfacer,” said Martinek.


Oval hits rough patch

Canada Winter Games one year out

The situation was disappointing for the Red Deer Central Lions Speed Skating Club, which had to cancel a couple of competitions in January. Members had to also forgo a whole winter of training on what they thought would be their new long-track oval.

Part of the difficulty was learning to create strong ice atop of artificial turf for a new football field. Martinek said staff were unfamiliar with the different requirements, so made the mistake of building up ice on top of a snow-pack base. This led to the formation of air bubbles.

After creating five test patches for new ice-making methods at Great Chief Park, and consulting with national experts, including some who worked at the recent Korean Olympics, two techniques were found to yield good results, added Martinek.

City workers learned that flooding the artificial turf directly — as well as the perimeter and drain — with water, then slowly building up a minimum of six to eight inches of ice levels works well.

Another successful method is packing snow and slush onto the turf, then watering it down thoroughly and letting it freeze, before building up more ice layers.

Martinek said having the two methods gives the city flexibility to deal with different weather conditions that could crop up early next winter. “We got lots of advice and we’re feeling pretty confident.”

The plan is to start creating a speedskating oval in late December so it can be tested in competitions before the Games start in February.

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