Now that the temperature has dipped below zero, volunteers have been busy all week flooding the outdoor ice oval to build up enough ice to finally open for the season.
“What we were dealing with before is it would be zero or below overnight and then it would warm up quite a lot during the day,” says Kathy Lewis, president of the Prince George Outdoor Ice Oval Society.
Lewis says volunteers have been using fire hoses to flood the oval four times a day, in order to build up a solid enough base before they can bring out the water truck.
It takes a whole team to make the ice. Eight people are needed for each of the four daily flooding sessions, which take an hour each to complete.
“It’s a long process, but we are getting there,” says Lewis. “We have a core group of volunteers who are totally awesome.”
Lewis says they are expecting to open this weekend if the weather stays around -5 C, and there isn’t an unexpected snowfall that needs to be cleared.
The Prince George Ice Oval Society is a volunteer-run organization which gets most of its funding to operate the oval from user fees. It costs $2 per person or $5 for a family if you don’t buy a season's pass.
She says a possible warm winter is a big worry for the society as it creates a lot more work for the volunteers.
“If we lose ice, we have to build it back up again and that is a drain on the volunteers, who put a lot of hours in, to see their efforts melting away,” says Lewis. “We have a long-term goal as a society to try and get the ice oval refrigerated, which would allow us to get through these warmer periods and it would also allow us to extend our season.”
She says with refrigeration, the oval could open as early as November until the end of March.
“That is a long-term goal and it’s a fairly expensive proposition but we have been fundraising toward that, as well as looking at other opportunities for funding,” says Lewis.
But even without refrigeration, the oval has a lot of features worth checking out.
“We have a little warming hut now that was donated to us by Canfor. It's heated and you can change into your stakes there and walk directly out onto the ice. We have lights at night so you can go skating until 8:30 p.m. when we close and we have some special events that we run throughout the year,” says Lewis.
The oval also offers skate rentals on the weekends, so those who don’t have their own skates can still join in on the fun.
“If people haven’t been down there, they have been missing out, so they should hustle on down once we get opened up."