Last week,  John Meade from Preferred Mechanical Services sent me pictures of the twin pads that are about to open at the Membertou Sports & Wellness Facility in Membertou, Nova Scotia. This energy-efficient project, for the Membertou First Nation, will open at the beginning of September and John has been quite involved with the project.  His note to me was as follows – with a subject that read Re: Membertou Paint

Life is changing at Membertou. It makes me so happy to see a customer delighted.
— John Meade, Preferred Mechanical Services

I like the subject line because I know that operation teams all over North America are getting ready for the upcoming season. And that beautiful picture of the soon-to-be-skated-on ice looks so fresh and clear and skatable that I really have no option but to write about paint. After all, paint — for the white of the ice, to mark the red line, blue lines, hash marks, creases, face off circles, etc.  — are a very important part of the ice-making process.

You might remember that I ran a couple of stories about Jason Paquin and his paint cart. If you don’t, let me refresh your memory.

Jason is the Assistant General Manager at the Norway Savings Bank Arena – Maine’s only twin-pad facility.  Jason wanted an economical, more way to get his ice in that wasn’t as manpower-intensive as how his ice had been traditionally put in, so he built a paint cart of his own. Now, instead of needing between 11-14 days and a team of people to build and paint the ice, Jason’s got it down to a manageable 7 days, requiring no more than two people.

As we got to talking about the cart he built, repurposing a Kawasaki Mule ATV, we spent some time talking about paint.  Here’s what he told me about his process:

During the ice painting process, roughly 100US Gallons is put onto the ice at a time the tank is then refilled with a water/paint powder mixture until 3 coats of white paint covers the surface. Once this is done, the tank is then filled with water and repeated until a shine is left on the ice. This allows lines and logos to be painted onto the surface. When ice is ready to be built. The cart will go back out and proceed to flood the surface 100 gallons of water at a time until 1″ is achieved. We can then put the ice resurfacer onto the ice.
— Jason Paquin, AGM, Norway Savings Bank Arena

What I’ve learned from Jason — which prompted me to talk to other operations people — is that ice makers have strong commitments to their paint suppliers and strong opinions about the brand of paint they use, and why.

There are arenas who will only use one supplier for all their on-ice paint needs and those suppliers supply everything — from colours to logos to white. These arena people are passionate about the paint they use and won’t change suppliers for any reason.

Then there are facilities who will buy their coloured paints for the lines, logos and creases from one particular manufacturer, but will buy all their white paint from a different, less expensive supplier.  Since you need much more white paint than you do any of the other colours, the amount of money that you save can cover some of the costs of the coloured paints.

But, like in so much in the maintenance of indoor ice arenas, strong commitments to brands and strong opinions about the paint being used reign supreme. There are ice makers who know of paint manufacturers who say they have a competitive alternative to the leading brand of paint as greatly reduced prices, but they are so wary of the results that even at half the price, they’re reluctant to switch manufacturers.

Do you have strong commitments to your paint supplier? Have you experimented with other paints manufacturers and found satisfaction? Let me know.