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Construction underway on Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Rink at All-Star Winter Park pres. by Worthington Industries

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

All-Star Winter Park, presented by Worthington Industries, is beginning to take shape – and it’s a beautiful thing.

The park doesn’t officially open to the public until Jan. 16, but crews began loading in the array of materials (antifreeze pipes, wood, refigeration units, you name it) required to build the Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Rink last weekend.

McFerson Commons, the park located across the street from Nationwide Arena behind the Union Station Arch, will house the rink and various other activities throughout the two weeks. It’s going to be pretty awesome, and a Columbus-centric element of All-Star Weekend.

Rink Specialists, a company based out of Maine (with another office in North Carolina) that has previously worked on such projects as the Hockeytown Winter Festival in Detroit and Frozen Fenway in Boston, is heading up the Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Rink build in Columbus.

When completed, the Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Rink will be an NHL-sized sheet of ice that features bleacher seating for up to 500 spectators, daily public skating sessions at $5 per person (including skate rental) and also drop-in hockey and youth hockey throughout its stay.

Rink Specialists has worked on both indoor and outdoor projects at all levels of hockey, so their team has encountered just about everything when it comes to rink building.

PHOTOS: Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Rink construction gallery

For this project, there was one hurdle that needed to be cleared right off the bat: McFerson Commons is naturally un-level, so crews spent three days building a 20,000-square foot stage that serves as a level base and platform for the rink.

“It has to be level with no less than a quarter inch of difference in the whole thing,” said Benn Breton, owner and president of Rink Specialists. “We've put our refrigeration system in, and that’s what’s going to make the ice. It’s the same (system) as any other ice rink you’ll see, except ours is portable.

“This rink is a little more low-key; it’s not in a civic center and it’s not in the middle of a baseball field or a football field. And there are a lot of questions that we get asked (from people passing by). That’s really the only difference or the only challenge for us.”

Well, that, and the weather. With such a consistent weather pattern in Columbus…

Just kidding. The weather around here is as consistent as tapioca, and that’s providing its own challenges for Breton and his team as they work to get the site and the rink ready for Jan. 16. Over the weekend, they were greeted with temperatures in the 50s and occasional heavy downpours, and a few days later, Columbus received its first measurable snow since November and temperatures began to plummet near single digits.

“We’re always looking at the weather,” Breton said. “We have a lot of resources at our disposal for maintaining excellent ice. We have to deal with Mother Nature, we have to deal with six inches of snow, warm temperatures and cold temperatures…the ice is a constant battle for us, it’s a challenge we’re always working on and improving it overnight (due to damages).

“It’s very unpredictable; the weather tells us how (the ice) is going to react and what we can do on the ice itself. We try to get through it and prepare as best we can, knowing that it may snow or it may rain.”

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