PHILADELPHIA -- The torrential rain that soaked the ice sheet at Citizens Bank Park late Tuesday gave way to bright sunlight and high winds on Wednesday, providing more challenges for NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig and his crew.
But, as usual, Craig's team worked through the conditions to stay on track to have the rink completed by Friday afternoon.
"We were supposed to paint (the ice white) at about 9 o'clock this morning and try to get some stuff done before the sun hit us, but we're going to wait for the sun to get off the sheet," Craig told NHL.com on Wednesday afternoon. "We'll probably be in the clear by 2:15, but we'll have to wait for the wind to die down a little bit because we still have people working around the rink and we don't want to cover them with white paint.
"We're shooting to (paint) now between 4 and 5 o'clock and then work up until midnight in sealing it in."
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With painting put on the back burner, the crew spent several hours Wednesday spraying more water on both the main rink as well as the auxiliary rink in front of the home-plate area. Craig thought Tuesday's rain would have helped him get close to an inch of ice -- the approximate depth he prefers before painting it white -- but he arrived at the ballpark Wednesday morning and saw that didn't happen. So the hoses returned.
"We were fine until about 6:45 (Tuesday night) and that last little squall came through -- and it wasn't little at all -- it dumped a ton of water on us," Craig said. "Basically it was overloaded on the one side of the rink and it kind of ate through. Nothing you could do about it. We just let the water drain off and we now have three-quarters of an inch to seven-eighths and that's exactly where we should be when we're doing white. So we're not in critical time there, but I thought we'd have an inch of ice that the good Lord gave us."
In addition to building more ice, the crew reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a good one that Craig said is essential to keeping the ice strong and level in all areas.
They froze several sheets of long white mesh into the surface at each end of the rink, the areas where the Zamboni turns. Once frozen into the ice, the white mesh hardens and becomes almost steel-like, which is important because the sub-floor of the rink is flexible and those areas need reinforcement due to the weight of the Zamboni.
"This floor, it being on a temporary surface, is a floating floor, one on top of the other, and that area where we put the mesh in is where the Zamboni turns," Craig said. "We want to strengthen that area up. This mesh is what we use for the logos and we found that is a very strong element that we can make sure everything stays tight in that area."
The white mesh gets hidden behind the two coats of white paint, which should be down and sealed by midnight. The lines will be painted and the logos, which were laid out in the Phillies clubhouse Wednesday afternoon, will be laid into the surface by late Thursday morning. After that, Craig said, they'll need to build another half an inch of ice on top to seal the entire thing.
"It'll be sealed up, there's no doubt about that," Craig said. "We'll try to get our lines started right around 8 o'clock (Thursday morning), this way we'll be done around 10. As long as everything is in place, it'll be frozen and we'll just be able to keep up with it."