Making an Olympic Ice Rink

Dave Wescott is one of America’s top ice-rink technicians. He has overseen the construction and maintenance of rinks used for hockey and figure-skating competitions in several Winter Olympics. The following infographic explains his construction process.

Human scale 1 2 3 4 5 1 ICE LAYERS Technicians build up thin layers of ice on a frozen foundation. They use water mixed with white paint to make some initial layers. On this white ice, they paint graphics. Then, they continue layering with clear ice until the surface reaches a thickness of about an inch. It could require as many as 50 layers. 2 FOUNDATION Ice rinks for the Olympics are often set up temporarily and have foundations of frozen sand. 3 INSULATION Insulation creates a vapor barrier between the heated sub-floor and the frozen foundation. 4 SUB-FLOOR A network of pipes heats the ground beneath the layer of insulation; this prevents permafrost, which would cause the ice above to heave. CHILLER COMPRESSOR ANTIFREEZE EXPANSION VALVE FREON GAS 5 COOLING SYSTEM A network of pipes circulates antifreeze through the foundation of frozen sand. BASIC REFRIGERATION The antifreeze circulating in pipes underneath the rink carries heat to a chiller. Inside the chiller, it brings this heat close by a separate network of pipes that contain Freon. Due to proximity and a temperature differential, the heat from the antifreeze transfers to the Freon. The antifreeze, now at a much colder temperature, leaves the chiller. The Freon also leaves the chiller, with the heat. It passes through a compressor , then an expansion valve. This process of compression and expansion rapidly dissipates the heat from the gas.
Jacob Benison, Information Graphic, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 04 February 2006