Cure Insurance Arena, formerly Sun National Bank Center, in Trenton NJ. Makes an Ice Rink for Disney On Ice. The crew begins by making sure the arena floor is spotless from trash, debris and other items. As this is taking place, elsewhere in the arena, the ice plant and working hard to pull the arena floor down to +/- 5˚F. This process, depending on building temperatures and out door weather can take anywhere from 8-10 hours to 16 hours. Once the floor is at temperature, the crew takes great care to fill any cracks in the ice dam. Once this is complete, the crew then then begin to squirt plane water on the extremely cold floor.
Most people think the crews just open a "fire hose" and flood the floor. While this is sometimes done on outdoor rinks. It is rarely done indoors. Crews use specialized sprayers to control the amount of water being applied to the floor. This is to ensure a tight bond between the layer of new water and the previous frozen layers. There is a lot of technical reasons behind this, to many to cover in detail. The simple explanations is, the thinner the layers, the least amount of oxygen that is dissolved into the water, making the ice harder. The second, is the thinner the layer the faster the water freezes. Making the cycles between a flood and freeze time shorter. As I stated before there are numerous technical reasons why.
Once the initial clear layers are applied and sufficiently frozen, next is the application of the "white" paint. This is done in 3 different applications, with each application applied in a different direction to cover the floor evenly. Once the paint is frozen, the system is flushed out and clear water is applied over the white to create a working surface, protecting the white paint from shoe marks and dirt that can be tracked onto the ice.
This is where the processes can go into two different directions, if the rink is going to be for figure skating, then clear water is applied in thin layers one after the other to build the ice up to a minimum of 1/4" before the process changes to a different application method, explained further in this article. If the rink is going to be for hockey, this is when the official markings are applied to the rink. Depending on the level of play, the markings are similar but have slight differences between NHL, AHL, ECHL levels. Once the official markings are applied, any advertisements are also applied at this time. How this is done is quite simple, once the location of the advertisement, or game lines determined, a paper template is layer out that has small perforations that allows chalk power to stick to the ice. Creating a faint outline of the logos. A master sheet is referenced to show where the different colors are to be applied and how the finial image is to look. In a sense, paint by numbers. This usually takes, depending on the size and amount of logo's 4-5 hours to complete with a small crew. NHL rinks utilize a larger crews and can complete the task in 1/2 the time. The lines and logo's are applied at this stage to protect them from the game of hockey and other activities that take place on the rink.
Before I continue on the process, let's talk about the paint. When rinks say or talk about ice paint, it is not typical paint you find at your local box home improvement stores. It is special "paint" formulated to freeze to the floor. Basically it is a clay & water based liquid that is 100% environment friendly and designed to freeze to the floor and thaw out when the season is complete. The color range available is very close to what you could choose to paint your house. However, the colors that are typically chosen are high contrast colors that can been seen though the ice and can be seen on TV, if the game is televised.
There is a growing trend in the industry that is replacing the old school method of paint, with special fabrics that are frozen into the ice, instead of painting the logo's. The fabrics are printed with the advertisement on a mesh fabric. This is then "frozen" into the ice. There are pros and cons to this alternative method, with opinions of them being wide and varied. I personally have only worked with a few "mesh" logo's and prefer to hand paint the advertisements, personally i think the hand painted look has more vivid colors.
After the lines and logos are applied, then the crews begin the long task of building up the ice. With careful attention to how much water is applied, multiple, very thin layers of clear water is sprayed onto the ice. Taking great care to keep the lines and logos from melting and spreading out before they re-freeze. From this point on only clear water is applied, when you are watching anything taking place on the rink, are the markings are actually at the bottom of the ice rink. The rink thickness is typically between 1" - 1.5" inches thick.
The water used, is regular domestic water, that sometimes is treated to adjust the hardness of the water. This all depends on the location of the ice rink and where the water is being provided from. The installation of an ice rink has years of research behind it, with how water freezes and the amount of trace elements and oxygen that are dissolved into the water. Each rink will customize the ice to how the team likes, hard/fast to soft/slow. Giving each home team a small edge on how the ice is.
If the ice is for figure skating, then most of the above process is skipped. Once the white is applied, clear water is used to build the ice to 1"-1.5" thick. Building the ice by hand, in thin layers is best, once the ice reaches above 1/4" thick, then most rinks will switch to flooding the ice with a machine, typically a Zamboni® or Olympia®. This is faster as it applies more water, however it is not as accurate and can create high and low spots.
This is a very basic explanation on how an ice rink is created. There are many steps and science that I skipped for the benefit of simplicity.
Creating an ice rink for professional play involves many processes and science to create a "perfect" sheet.
Below is a time lapse video, creating a sheet of ice for Disney on Ice.