Paradise on Ice

There are few upsides to the subzero temperatures visiting campus this January. But one amenity the arctic weather has enabled is an ice skating rink on Paradise Pond—a broad, hockey rink-sized space on the pond cleared of snow this week by facilities management.

It’s not often that conditions coincide to safely clear a space for ice skating on campus—about once every three or four years, says Bob Dombkowski, supervisor of grounds in facilities management, who oversees the pond ice skating rink.

“It’s not really the temperature, it’s about the ice,” says Dombkowski. “We need to have a minimum of 10 inches.”

iceskating1Clearing the pond for skating is a welcome event among students and others who like to lace up, but conditions have to be just right, Dombkowski says. “If we don’t have any snow on the ice we can’t create a rink because we have no way of containing people—somebody could go and skate out over the spillway. There has to be a combination of a snowpack on there and we need to have sufficient ice for us to get some equipment out there and plow it off.”

An ice thickness of 10 inches is the safety standard published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Dombkowski notes. When conditions seem favorable, facilities management staff members drill small holes in the ice in multiple locations to assess its safety.

“We drill six holes every time,” Dombkowski says. “We did six this morning and we had from 13 to 15 inches of ice. We drill about a 1-inch hole and we have a tape measure that goes right down in and you can hook the bottom of it on the ice and get a pretty good measurement. We test it every day, and I usually have the numbers by about 8 a.m.”

Though Dombkowski is not an ice skater, he enjoys facilitating others’ enjoyment of the cleared ice. “It just seems like it’s a source of enjoyment for a lot of people, “he says, “and nowadays you don’t see a lot of skating outdoors. I think it’s good for the students, and it gives them something to do in the wintertime.”