The big meltdown is under way.
The ice inside Wesbanco Arena is only a little more than one inch thick.
But it takes a complex combination of plumbing, engineering and chemistry to put it up and to take it down.
And this year, a longer than usual hockey season meant a tougher than usual job.
“This is a new road for us,” said Denny Magruder, executive director of the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority. “This is the first time we’ve ever had to remove ice in June!”
The last four weeks, with spring and summer weather, has been a challenge.
“We would jack up the air conditioners full blast,” noted Magruder.
“It’s been a real hard job maintaining the ice,” said Mark Stuckey, operations manager. “It’s been an everyday job.”
But it’s finally time for the big meltdown.
The glass is down.
The thermostat for the ice is going up.
Some of the melted ice is already down in the ice pit, below where the Zamboni is usually parked.
And the very top layer, like snow cone fluff, is now in a pile in the parking lot.
Now they’re applying salt to the remaining ice.
The hockey red line, a red ribbon, is able to be pulled up.
And the graphic mats with advertising logos can be lifted out.
“First we let it melt, then we’ll take it out with squeegees and bulldozers,” said Stuckey. “It’ll be coming out soon. It’s been a long time.”
There are 11 miles of tubing under the floor.
And an entire structure–the chiller building–is devoted to temperature controls.
The blades for the Zamboni are kept as sharp as razors.
For months, this ice has been manicured and measured several times a day, whether it’s a game day or not.
It is deepened and softened for figure skating events and changed back to a colder, harder surface for hockey.
“We want the visiting teams who come here to leave saying, ‘Hey, they had great ice here,’ said Magruder. “So that’s our goal.”
And they want the home team to keep up the good work.
So they’re throwing a little magic into the freezer.
“We’ll save a piece of the ice from this year, and we’ll pass it on to next year,” revealed Stuckey. “Next year, we’ll freeze it back in. And that will bring them good luck and we’ll have another good season.”