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Ice out: Hastings Civic Arena converts east rink from ice to turf

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The Hastings Civic Arena's McGree East Rink underwent its annual spring season change last week. The rink was converted from ice to turf. (Star Gazette photos by Katrina Styx)2 / 10
With ice and water pulled off the rink floor, the bleachers were pulled back to prepare for the equipment needed to move rolls of artificial turf onto the rink.3 / 10
A Velcro strip is placed over the seams on the field to keep the edges from pulling up.4 / 10
The first step in the transition is removing the ice from the floor, which is done with the Zamboni.5 / 10
Ice cut off the rink is dropped along the backside of the arena, where it is allowed to melt away.6 / 10
City staff work together to line up each strip of artificial turf.7 / 10
Goals replaced the boards at the ends of the field.8 / 10
It takes several people to shift just one piece of turf into place.9 / 10
Rolling out the artificial turf is a team effort, as each roll weighs more than 1,000 pounds.10 / 10

Hastings got a fresh coat of snow this week, but that's not keeping spring out of the Hastings Civic Arena. Early this week, city crews completed a days-long process of converting one of the arena's two rinks from an ice arena to an indoor turf field.

The conversion is one that happens twice a year, explained Jeff Elliott, arena manager. From mid-October until early March, the McGree East Rink is frozen over for ice hockey and figure skating needs. Starting in March, the turf field is used for all sorts of rentals, from craft shows to indoor soccer camps to semi-professional lacrosse and more.

The west rink is left as ice nearly year-round. That rink will be kept frozen until May 1, when Elliott will start a two-month maintenance period.

Changing an entire rink from ice to turf takes a few days. First, the ice has to be taken off. Elliott and his staff did that Monday, March 6. They drove Zambonis across the ice, cutting it down as close to the floor as the machines can manage.

"It'll take us 50-60 loads," Elliott said.

The Zambonis gather the cut ice as well, and deposit it in piles behind the arena where it can melt off just like any snow plow piles.

Once they have enough ice off the floor, the heat gets turned up to melt whatever's left, and staff use a wet vacuum and scrubbers to pull the remaining water out. After that, the rink is left to dry.

Last week, the floor was bare by Tuesday morning. Wednesday, they pulled back the bleachers to make room for the equipment needed to move massive rolls of artificial turf out of storage. Then on Friday, they rolled out the green.

The turf used at the Hastings Civic Arena is a rubber mat with a felt-like surface that rolls out in wide strips. It takes about 20 rolls to cover the east rink floor, and each roll weighs about 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, making it quite a workout for anyone helping out.

Of course, once each strip is unrolled, the crew has to finesse it into place; it takes several people to ease a strip into alignment, and they shift the entire strip even if it's off by just an inch.

Once all the turf is rolled out and lined up, it's given a day or so to rest and flatten itself out. Then, crews come back with strips of Velcro to keep the strips bound together as well as keep the edges of each strip from pulling up during use. Each end of the arena has soccer goals installed in place of hockey boards, and, with that, the field is ready for use.

Elliott said he had originally planned to have the final pieces installed Tuesday this week, and rentals were already scheduled for Wednesday. The turf was able to be rolled out a little earlier, however, giving the field an extra day to rest before going into the busy spring rental season.

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