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Midtown ice rink opens

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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.

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Suzanne Hurt

  • Kati Garner

    Great narrative on how the rink was ‘born’!

  • Is this fully funded by the private sector?

    • Dale Kooyman

      I may be misinformed but it is my understanding that MBA is footing the bill for this. You could call Midtown Business Association to find out.

      My hope is that the rainy/stormy weather will not reduce the crowd. AND that the crowd who skates will patronize Midtown businesses. I don’t think that was the case downtown, but I may be wrong.

  • Shawn Eldredge

    yes the Midtown Business Association and its members plus sponsors are footing the bill. We expect to bring 30+ thousand people down to midtown throughout the holdiay period to enjoy the rink as well as our great retail establishments that surround it …please come and bring a friend

  • Jacqueline Dotson

    I am so excited about this. I have some years of figure skating lessons under my belt, so I am going to come on down and show off whatever moves I might have left… any word on where I can get my ancient blades sharpened in this town???

  • I was in the area last week before the opening and parking was already a nightmare – MBA’s parking mitigation plans are insufficient. Lack of parking will frustrate potential patrons, residents and business owners. Again – residents are very supportive of the rink being here – don’t misunderstand, but it needs to be well managed and from what we saw even before opening – that wasn’t happening.

  • Very sad that the city did not get any feedback on this project from the residents that live next to it prior to building it. I live 22 steps from the rink. Notification to the residents that the street was closing came 2 weeks to the day AFTER the street actually closed. Construction when it was being built started at 5:30 am (that is hammering, generators, power saws, etc.)—not very conducive to sleep, especially on saturday and sunday. Parking just from closing the street became a nightmare and now with skaters added to this, is impossible. And the location means residents have to go 5 blocks out of the way every time they want to get home because J and I streets are one way and I street is not a through street. During second saturdays, residents were issued specal parking permits. this is going on for a few months and no special permits are being offered to the residents. As a former northerner, I like the idea of a downtown rink, but 1 block south (between L and K) would have been MUCH better: no immediate residents to have to deal with constant noise and music, better traffic flow, less parking impact, better walking since the street is not as narrow, less visual pollution–the big tractor trailor across the street truly ruins the nice tree-lined neighborhood view, and only 2 businesses would be blocked instead of the 6-10 that are in the current block. Why did the rink have to be built at the expense of changing the the whole character of the street?? Not a good plan folks.!

  • I also think that this could have been planned better. But, honestly, in this economy I am just glad to have the midtown ice rink this year. It was nice to see the MBA and private sector step up and keep this tradition alive. Kudos to the sponsors of this project and people who worked on it.

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