Defrosting Greenwich’s Hamill Rink, Unfurling the Turf

spools of turf


The 16 rolls of turf are brought in on the Bobcat skid steer. They weigh anywhere between 1,200 and 2,000 lbs each. Credit: Leslie Yager

The ice melted this week at Dorothy Hamill Rink. It’s April and the rink is being transformed from ice to turf for the warmer months.

Rink manager Rich Ernye said staff are undertaking the tedious process of melting ice, power washing the cement slab underneath and lining up rolls of green turf.

The process is tricky, though the rink manager and longtime staff have it down to a science.

“When we turn off the ice-making equipment and thaw the ice, the water melts with the paint in it,” Ernye said, referring to the painted lines and markings between layers of ice. “It’s biodegradable,” he said of the paint. Still, once the ice is melted, what remains on the cement slab is a slosh of paint fragments.

“When we make ice, we build it up with thin layers followed by thicker layers,” he said of the process of returning the rink to ice. Staff add a layer of white paint on the ice and then layer more ice over it so the ice appears white rather than gray.

“After we seal the white paint in with several coats of water, we measure precisely and paint on the markings – the face-off dots, center lines, blue lines, goal lines and goal creases,” he said.

cement slab

Cement slab that was hidden all winter under all that ice. The cement was painted back in the 1970s. Later, the colored lines and markings were created using tissue paper under ice. These days the ice is painted and more layers of ice applied on top. Credit: Leslie Yager

This week, however, the rink is becoming ready for soccer and lacrosse. The ice is melted, and the cement slab underneath is revealed.  Mr. Ernye said that back in the 1970s the lines were painted directly onto concrete.

“The problem was it impacted the concrete’s bond, so it was no good,” he said. In the following two decades, staff improvised another way to add colored lines. “For years we used colored tissue for the blue and red lines. That was pre-2000.”

The ice rink, which is far from air tight, is generally as warm or cold inside as is outside, but, before the dehumidification system was installed, “If it was humid or rainy outside the plexiglass around the rink was so fogged up that parents couldn’t even see their kids on the ice.”

a roll of turf

Also, before the dehumidification was added, staff would arrive in the morning to find stalactites on the ceiling and stalagmites rising from the ice. “That’s how not-tight the building is.”

Though he laughed to recount the story, Mr. Ernye said it wasn’t funny at the time. “We’d run the zamboni over the ice to pop them off. There were lines of them.”

Ernye described what has become a time-honored tradition since 2004, when each April staff unfurl the turf.

There are 16 rolls of turf, each weighing between 1,200 and 2,000 lbs. The rolls are brought out of storage skewered by the “stinger,” a long rod attached to the Bobcat skid steer. The rolls are first lined them up as best as possible by eye.

sledgehammer and kicker

Anthony uses a “kicker” and a sledgehammer to ease the spools of turf into place without tearing them. The procedure has been honed over the years. In fact, it’s been about 10 years since the rink added turf in the off season. Credit: Leslie Yager

Next week Anthony will put double-sided Velcro underneath both sides of every seam. “We have 3 or 4 guys who come in and line everything up as best as possible by eye. Then 3-4 guys come back in every night for a week to line them up,” the rink manager said. “Anthony comes in and uses the ‘kicker’ to straighten the rolls of turf, with the help of a sledgehammer.”


Jason and Anthony put away mops and buckets after a morning spent power washing the cement slab under what was layers of ice until a few days ago. Credit: Leslie Yager

“He’s got his own system. He uses a line of orange cones right down the middle of the rink,” Rich said. “He flat out told me after the first year, ‘I don’t want anything to do with the turf,'” Rich said of Anthony, who has since relented and become an expert at installing the turf every April.

The one maintenance task for the turf that is a bit exasperating is using a commercial vacuuming.

“One year the kids a group of kids stomped Goldfish crackers into the turf,” Rich and Anthony recalled with a laugh. “But we’re set up to vacuum it on a regular basis.”

This summer the rink will host lacrosse camps, soccer camps and birthday parties.

Rink manager Rich Ernye said there is some availability this summer for schools or clubs to rent out the facility, with its green turf for lacrosse, soccer and t-ball. He said it’s a great space for birthday parties where kids have access to the party room and then run around the turf and have a game of soccer or even just play tag.

Anyone interested contacting Rich Ernye about renting the turf rink for camps, clubs or parties this summer should email him at [email protected]

lining up the turf kicker

 See also:

Parks & Rec Board Discusses Plans for a New Dorothy Hamill Rink


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