Wanna skate? Mid-80s weather won’t stop downtown rink from getting its ice

Downtown Sacramento’s bigger, better holiday ice skating rink started taking shape Monday as firefighters and technicians began filling it ahead of its Nov. 2 grand opening.

This year, the rink at St. Rose of Lima Park on K Street will be 25 percent bigger, with a rounded square shape replacing past years’ oval. Other improvements will include refreshed logos and branding, Downtown Sacramento Partnership spokeswoman Emilie Cameron said.

At 6,800 square feet, the Sacramento rink is only about 500 square feet smaller than the one at Rockefeller Center in New York, Cameron pointed out.

The increase in size boosts the total capacity to 175 skaters from a previous limit of about 140.

The Nov. 2 start is roughly a week earlier than is usual for St. Rose of Lima, but Cameron said there’s a reason for that.

“We’re honestly just meeting demands,” Cameron said. “There are a lot of families that come out here,”

Another bonus: The rink is open Christmas Day for the first time ever.

Temperatures in the high 70s downtown Monday afternoon and forecast for the mid-80s later in the week aren’t expected to delay or create problems in setting up the rink, lead ice technician Josh Gilliam said as he laid out the process.

Firefighters initially wet the rink with their fire hoses to begin a process called “flooding.” Sacramento Fire Department presence is mostly ceremonial; their trucks can do it a bit quicker than the technicians can, Gilliam said, but they stay for just a couple of hours before heading back to fight fires. Flooding then continues 24 hours a day for several days, with technicians working in six-hour shifts.

While firefighters flooded the bottom layer from a truck, the bulk of the ice for the rest of the rink was kept in a refrigeration unit called a “chiller” in a nearby alley. It’s kept at about 9 or 10 degrees, Gilliam said.

“All you do is just spray water around those pipes, the water will freeze, and that’s how that works.”

The rink has to be set down in bowl-like layers, Gilliam said.

“Most people have this mindset that it’s like filling up a pool – you just put a hose in the middle and let it go. It’ll never work like that.”

The downtown Sacramento ice rink costs $6 for kids 6 and younger, $13 for regular admission and $15 for “peak skate” periods, Nov. 18-24 and Dec. 24 to Jan. 5. The rink is open during all major holidays, but with limited hours; check for hours and discounts.