Keeping artificial ice frozen in Texoma
DENISON, Texas (KTEN) – Denison on Ice hosted its first skaters in 2016 as an open air rink; battling the elements in a part of the country that deals with warm and windy conditions during the winter.
“The temperature plays a factor on the ice. The largest factor is the wind,” Chip Egger, the Administrative Superintendent of the Denison Parks and Recreation Department said. “So, if we have the wind that is taking the frozen layer of air off the top of the ice, we will tend to see some little surface puddles pop up. We had to cancel a lot of sessions due to unskatable conditions.”
To remedy the puddle problem, the Denison Parks and Recreation Department decided to add a cover and consolidate their chilling equipment.
“Since we have covered it, we no longer need that larger chiller, so we have reduced the size of that chiller down to a 200 ton chiller,” Egger said.
Keeping the artificial ice rink frozen even when temperatures are above freezing is no easy task. There is much more going on below your skates while you master your triple axels. A plumbing mat is placed underneath the sheet of ice to assist in the freezing process.
“That plumbing mat consists of half inch lines that run 95 feet the length of it, they go over just less than one inch and then go back 95 feet and one inch and we do the entire 95 foot by 50 foot, or 55 foot, rink like that,” Egger said.
The magic ingredient that helps the rink stay frozen is a chemical called glycol, which is used in antifreeze for vehicles.
“We pump the glycol at 5 degrees through that plumbing and once it gets to 5 degrees, we start spraying it down with a fire hose of water and we got about four inches of ice that we are standing on,” Egger said.
For clarity, Denison on Ice is artificially kept frozen. The natural freezing of water rarely happens in Texoma. The notorious Big Freeze of February 2021 partially froze some local lakes, including Lake Texoma.
“Typically it only freezes in the margins, which is around the shoreline or in the back ends of coves, sometimes a little farther out depending on how significant the cold snap is,” Paul Balkenbush, Deputy Manager of the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, said.
When lakes freeze, wildlife are forced to change their habits.
“Some of the birds that we manage for don’t like it that much and they will move on to open water or maybe farther out in the lake where they are a little bit less visible to visitors,” Balkenbush said.
If you ever see a frozen lake in Texoma, heed the advice from your local officials.
“My advice anywhere in our part of the country is stay off the ice; it is simply not safe enough to be on it,” Balkenbush said.
Or you can visit an artificial rink for some safe skating.