Winterfest is coming: Outdoor ice rink begins taking shape at Fifth Third FieldWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | email@example.com
It’s been three years in the making, but the ice resurfacers have finally made their way to the home of the
Toledo Mud Hens.
The biggest events and challenges of the Toledo Walleye Winterfest running Dec. 26 through Jan. 4 will be the outdoor hockey games hosted at Fifth Third Field on Dec. 27 and Jan. 3. Winterfest officials hosted a Dec. 9 news conference at Fifth Third Field to provide an update on preparations for the events.
To see it finally come to fruition is pretty exciting,” said Mike Keedy, manager of special events for the Walleye. “Everything is right on schedule. We’re very excited about the progress that we’ve made.”
Jake Tyler, sports turf manager at Fifth Third Field, was responsible for preparing the field to host games measured in periods rather than innings.
“There’s been a lot of work that has gone into all the logistical issues that we’ll have to deal with [in putting] an ice rink here in a baseball field,” Tyler said, explaining his crew started doing a field renovation this fall.
A field renovation, performed every five to eight years, is designed to diagnose and treat issues of the playing field.
The field, which is now completely devoid of turf, will not be re-sodded until the spring.
“That allowed us to build a big sandbox on the field to level it out where the rink will go,” Tyler said.
Rink Specialists is a North Carolina-based company that has set up NHL-sized rinks at venues such as Fenway Park in Boston and Comerica Park in Detroit. The company’s six trucks full of hockey rink equipment began arriving at Fifth Third Field on Dec. 8.
The biggest challenge in installing outdoor hockey rinks is weather, according to Dave Fies, vice president of operations for Rink Specialists.
“In a perfect world, we’d love to see it anywhere from 25 degrees to 35 degrees,” Fies said. Ideal conditions also include overcast skies with no wind.
“Direct sunlight on ice is not good,” he said. “Air movement melts ice just as much as direct sunlight so we don’t want it to be a windy day. If it gets below 20 [degrees, the] ice surface becomes very frigid and the ice becomes brittle. It does not make for great skating conditions.”
Fies said his crew of six to eight people will be busy until the beginning of Winterfest on Dec. 26. After testing the 13 miles of plastic tubing that goes underneath the rink, crews will lay a paper barrier down over the sand on Fifth Third Field. They will then put down a plywood foundation and bring in a crane to lower a generator into the outfield. The company hopes to make ice at the temporary rink around Dec. 17.
Structurally, the rink will be identical to those found in indoor arenas, Fies said.
“The only difference is it will probably be a little thicker ice,” he said. “We have to have enough ice built up on top of the lines and logos that if a warm rain did come, it’s not going to wash away all the lines, which obviously they don’t have to worry about in indoor ice arenas.”
A half-inch to an inch of extra ice is added to ensure there are no such problems, he said.
For the main events of Winterfest, presented by ProMedica, the Walleye host the Kalamazoo Wings in the first outdoor hockey game in ECHL history at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 27. The Walleye host the Fort Wayne Komets in the second game at the stadium 6:30 p.m. Jan. 3. Prior to this game, there will be a 4:30 p.m. showdown featuring alumni teams from Toledo and Fort Wayne. Ticketholders for the Jan. 3 game may enter the stadium early to watch the alumni game.
The outdoor rink at Fifth Third Field will also host more than 150 youth, high school and adult recreational teams during Winterfest. The public may attend these events at no charge.
The community is welcome to get the outdoor skating experience for themselves with open skate sessions Dec. 28-29 and 31. These sessions are open to the public but tickets are required for admission.
There is also a game at 4 p.m. Dec. 31 featuring Adrian College vs. the U.S. National Under-18 team. At noon Jan. 3, the Bowling Green State University Falcons will play their first outdoor game vs. Robert Morris Colonials.
For more information and a live-camera feed of the field-to-rink process, visit www.toledowalleye.com/winterfest.