Rob Kerth has been getting plenty of Zamboni action the last few nights.
Midtown Business Association’s executive director has been staying up late and going out in the early-morning dark to use the ice groomer to help create an ice-skating rink that opens at 10 a.m. Friday in Midtown.
"It’s a tremendous amount of work to put up one of these portable rinks," Kerth said Wednesday. "I’ve been there until 4 in the morning at least five out of the last 10 days."
While most business association leaders might not even know how to spell "Zamboni," Kerth not only knows how to drive one, he owns one. And he has the license to drive it.
That’s because until last year, Kerth owned Ice Unlimited, the company that built the holiday rink on a half-block of 20th Street next to J Street. Kerth and his father, William John Kerth, also designed 75 ice-skating rinks all over the country and on other continents as well.
The last rink they designed was at Squaw Valley’s High Camp in 1990. The family also has owned Iceland Skating Rink since 1940.
The holiday rink was built in front of the MARRS Building this year due to conflicts at St. Rose of Lima Park, where a rink has operated every holiday for 18 years. The park was renovated and a Carnival of Lights is being held there this year.
Just two days before the Midtown rink was set to open, Kerth rushed to drop off sign materials at GW Print Media while Carlos Rios of Ice Unlimited scraped leaves off the new ice.
More than a dozen people helped build the rink and lay the ice. The project began Nov. 2, when the half block was closed. Skilled construction crews first built a wooden edge smack against street curbs.
They poured in gravel — 10 truckloads of it — and leveled it. Three-quarter-inch foam insulation went on top of the gravel to protect water mains and sewer pipes from freezing. A plastic sheet was laid on top of that and up the sides of the wooden edge, Kerth said.
Then, 69 pipes connected with u-bends on one end were laid. The 123-foot pipes were connected to headers or manifolds on the other end, Rios said.
About 1,800 gallons of saltwater is circulating now through three miles of pipes. Saltwater or "brine" is used because it freezes at a much lower point than fresh water.
The saltwater flows through bigger pipes into coolers inside a big trailer. That system chills the saltwater flowing out to 10 degrees, Rios said.
The saltwater warms up a few degrees outside, but the pipes stay cool enough to freeze the fresh water crews spray on the surface, little by little and layer by layer.
The water was sprayed from one end to the other and back again, forming layers until the ice is 4.25 inches thick. Most work took place between sundown and sunup, Kerth said.
The ice must be thick enough that a skate heel can’t hit a pipe, Kerth said.
At 5,000 square feet, the 123-foot by 40-foot rink will be smaller than the St. Rose rink, which was 6,500-square feet.
Sponsors’ names were set in the ice on mesh signs or around the rink. Major sponsors include Elk Grove-based Bell Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning, MARRS Building owner Heller Pacific, Harv’s Car Wash, CBS13/CW31, California Pizza Kitchen and Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Cohn.
The rink will operate from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. all week. The rink will close at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Hours on Christmas Day will be noon to 6 p.m. Two to three hours of skating are $5 for kids, $8 for adults. Skate rentals are $2.
The street will be closed for 90 days. The rink will operate until Jan. 18. The rink can hold 200 skaters.
Locals have been talking with MBA about holding activities on a small stage at one end. Some have talked about a tropical hula hoop demo. Fire dancers want to perform next to the ice. Two traveling musicians have talked about informal sessions on Friday nights and other bands may play Saturday nights, Kerth said.
Security will watch the rink overnight.
"They’re there to help people not get hurt," Kerth said. "This is not like ice in the Sierras. It is the slickest surface that can be produced."
Photos by Kati Garner. Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.