Many indoor ice rinks are operational just 8 or 9 months a year. When the ice is out, the facility is usually transformed for other purposes, like Home and Garden Shows, floor hockey games — even political rallies. But those are temporary events, filling in the days until the ice goes in, once again. And that brings me to Jason Paquin and the paint cart that he built. I wanted to tell you about it because it’s so clever and so economical that it might be something you’d like to consider making for your rink, for applying that white ice paint and then building the ice.
In a nutshell, here’s why you should consider building your own white ice painter / ice builder
- 7 days; 2 staff members for painting then one staff member to build the ice
- Maintenance costs: $20/year (annual oil change)
- Fuel costs: $10/year
- Dual purpose machine: used to paint AND build the ice
- Total investment to date: $5,200
Interested? Read on.
I’ve written about the rink that Jason manages before in a story about how your ice plant doesn’t need to be ear-splittingly noisy. I first “met” Jason after I found out about the energy-saving methods that Keene ICE installed in their arena, which included Ice3 heat pump technology. The Norway Savings Bank Arena — the first twin pad in Maine — happened to be one of the case studies on the website of the Ice3’s manufacturer, Emerald Environmental Technologies. So, to learn even more about that technology, I made a call to the arena and got through to Jason. Since then, Jason is one of my go-to operations people, who has provided me with a wealth of information about how rinks operate and the products they use, and he’s someone with an eye on not just his arena’s ice quality, but its bottom line — and its environmental impact.
I should also explain that Jason is a second generation operations manager – a career path he followed once his hockey dreams were marred with concussions. His father Leon is the assistant manager of a single sheet at the University of New England, so often the topic of conversation at the dinner table is arena issues and how to do things better. Deciding to go ahead to build the paint cart was really a question of economics, practicality — and of Jason’s determination to find a way to do the job better.
“For painting the ice, there are quite a few choices,” he tells me. On the high end, there are different commercially available vehicles that can help you do the job, with price tags that can extend beyond the $30K range. Unfortunately, there was no room in the budget for an expenditure like that when Jason was considering his options.
His second option, and one that’s becoming more common for many arenas, was to employ the services of a custom paint team. Looking at a cost of somewhere between $2,500 and $3,500 a year, Jason looked at the cumulative 10-year budget item, and felt convinced he could find a more cost-effective way to get the job done.
And painting the ice the old-fashioned way, with a hoses and wand, is manpower intensive — and long. Jason wanted to trim the number of people needed to paint and build the ice (7-8 staff), as well as the time it took (11-14 days). Since he has a small team — there’s only one other full time worker on staff — he also wanted to find ways to reduce the stress on his team when the new ice went in., not just on meeting the deadline for when the ice needs to be ready, but the physical stress of the work.
“Painting is very hard on your hamstrings and lower back,” Jason says. “I wanted to eliminate as much of that stress as possible.”
For the machine itself, Jason selected a 2004 Kawasaki Mule 3010 4X4. The gas-powered UTV features bench seat, a hydraulic bed, and metal bumpers, floorboards and bed, making it quite the durable machine.
“We chose this particular one because it has 4-wheel drive capabilities as well as the weight rating that we desired. It’s a compact UTV, just a little bit larger than a 4-wheeler, and because of this, provides a great turning radius which is a nice feature when painting ice.”
The Mule has a top end of 25 MPH – more than adequate for the ice painting and making duties it’s a part of. It can haul 800 pounds of cargo in the bed and tow 1,200 pounds.
The Cart and the Mule
To put it all together, Jason’s equipped the Mule with a 100 US gallon tank which sits in the bed to hold the white ice paint, a pump and a spraying boom. I’ll tell you all about it, and what you’ll need to build your own — including the upgrades that Jason made at the start of this season to make his paint cart an even better rig, in an upcoming story.
Want to know more? Done something similar? Drop me a line and tell me in the comments.