The training rink at the H-F Ice Arena is also getting redone. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Local News

Refrigeration system moving into place at H-F Ice Arena

After months of preparation, workmen are bringing about changes to the H-F Ice Arena.

Lyndsay Freeman, ice arena director for the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District, said every step in the process has taken time – from hiring an outside contractor to working with an architect and then going out for bids on all work, plus dealing with supply chain issues. 

  • The training rink at the H-F Ice Arena is also getting redone. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
    The training rink at the H-F Ice Arena is also getting redone. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

The facility has two ice rinks – the main NHL regulation-sized rink and the studio rink, a smaller version of the main rink used for training sessions. The ice arena was shut down over Thanksgiving 2021 when the refrigeration system failed. The park board moved as quickly as possible to get the process for repair and remodel going, Freeman said.

“There has been progress, but not something that people could see,” she said. “We have been very conscious of lead times. Things are fluctuating all the time. This work is about to get done now because we moved so quick on our bid packages.”

In a tour of the facility with the Chronicle, Freeman pointed out how work is starting on the main rink and the studio rink, and construction has started on the mechanicals building.

In the studio rink, the flooring around the rink has been extended a bit and benches will be added. Freeman said it will make a big difference because it gives those in attendance a chance to be in the rink area, rather than watching through the lobby glass. Hockey teams can also use the space for programming, she said.

In both rinks, the first layer of heating pipes has been laid on top of sand. Next, a layer of sand will be poured over the pipes this week.  The aluminum refrigeration coils will be laid on top of the sand, and then a concrete flooring will be laid on top of the coils by robots. Freeman said the process doesn’t take long, and it guarantees a smooth finish. Once the concrete is laid, ice will be made on top of that.

Both rinks will get new boards and glass. The studio rink will have glass down to the floor on the west side to give a clear view of the ice for parents and guests.

The header pipe that links to the mechanicals building will send gases through to the heating/refrigeration pipes. To see it now, the header pipe is laid in a dip in the ice floor, but Freeman said in short order that will be evened out. The header pipe extends from the mechanicals building across the main rink, under the bleachers and into the studio rink.

The mechanicals required to run the new system wouldn’t have fit in the old mechanicals space under the bleachers, Freeman said. The new building also allows for storage of the two Zamboni ice resurfacing machines, and a dump pit for the melting ice taken off the rink.

The project is now estimated at $7.1 million, an increase from the original $6.5 million price tag. Between when the original design was presented and the four or five months before the park district went out for bids, inflation hit and labor and material costs spiraled, in some cases as much as 20%. The park district also had a delay due to the strike by quarry workers.

Freeman said the $2.9-million refrigeration system was one of the first things the district went out to bid on in March. The timing was important and meant that having the inner workings delivered within months is keeping the project moving. The hope is that the ice arena will have skaters by the end of the year.

Freeman said the ice arena staff is anxious to have programs up and running again. 

Teams have gone on to other facilities to keep their programs going, but she is hopeful that they will return. In the past, the ice arena was home to the Lincoln-Way hockey team, the Cobras of Oak Lawn, Providence Catholic High School and women’s teams and men’s leagues that organize themselves. A synchronized skating team also has used the H-F rink.

“We find that there’s always more need for ice time than is available, so that gives us a lot of hope that we’ll be in good shape for next season,” Freeman said.

The ice arena has always had an active youth hockey program. Last season the skaters were in a rink in Kankakee. This year they’re using ice in Chicago’s Morgan Park area. Chris Cimoch, youth hockey coordinator, is ready to start development classes again. He also sees the potential to try a few new things and may invite high school hockey skaters in in spring and summer months.

Jonni Malicia, assistant coordinator, has led the ice dancing and learn-to-skate training sessions. Those skaters have scattered. H-F will be in a rebuilding mode once the rinks are back, but Malicia expects to try a few new things with the schools and the community to get people involved in skating again.

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