Desert residents have watched Acrisure Arena, home to the Coachella Valley Firebirds hockey team, come to life in Thousand Palms over the last year and a half, going from an idea to a construction site to a full-blown venue.
An important final step in the process began Tuesday. To host a hockey team, you need ice. And the process to install the sheet of ice that will showcase the Firebirds when they make their home debut on Dec. 18 began Tuesday and will be finished Wednesday.
The ice is created in several thin layers and on Wednesday afternoon that process began as a dark gray concrete base was slowly turned into a white skating surface. A couple layers of a white paint and water mixture were laid down followed by a layer of clear ice. Next, the crew painted the colored parts of a hockey rink — the blue lines, center red lines, faceoff circles, dots and goal creases — and those will be topped by more clear layers of ice.
On Wednesday the center-ice Firebirds logo and the eight in-ice sponsored advertisements will be painted in, topped by a few more layers of clear ice, and the process will be complete.
According to RJ Schultz, the Firebirds ice plant manager, it takes about 100 of these ultra-thin layers to make an inch of ice, which is how thick the rink ice will be. In all it takes about 24 hours. How’s it going so far?
“Well, it’s white and it’s freezing. So it’s going well, ” Schultz said with a laugh Tuesday afternoon as a crew painted the particular ice behind him. “Yeah, it’s a little bit of a painstaking process. You can’t just go out with a fire hose and flood the rink, it won’t make good ice. It will be super-soft, and it will take forever to get it the way I want it. ”
The rink should be finished and technically ready for play by Wednesday night, but before the Firebirds hit the ice next Sunday, there will be three events to open Acrisure Arena — Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle comedy show on Dec. 14, The Doobie Brothers concert on Dec. 15 and a concert by Grupo Firme on Dec. 16.
Concert-goers might not even know that they are sitting on top of an ice rink. The rink is covered with “ice-decking” which is a sophisticated waffle board that protects the particular ice from damage, stops it from melting plus doesn’t require the ambient air to be cold.
“The ice-decking is about an inch thick and it’s made out of fiberglass, plastic and foam, ” Schultz said. “It keeps the ice insulated so everything on top of it isn’t melting the ice. They put this on in pieces basically. It’s like a big old jigsaw puzzle the way they put it together. ”
The Firebirds, the affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, are looking forward to playing on their house ice, but they’re doing pretty well on the road so far.
Coachella Valley is 11-4-2 through 17 games and is currently in fifth place in the 10-team Pacific Division with 24 points (teams get two factors for a win and one point for an overtime loss). They are seven points behind the division-leading Colorado Eagles (Avalanche affiliate), but the Firebirds have played five fewer online games.
Next up for the Firebirds is a pair of road games Friday and Saturday at the San Jose Barracuda (Sharks affiliate) and at the Bakersfield Condors (Oilers affiliate) respectively.