As temperatures soar, Houlton’s ice rink opens for new season

2 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — With temperatures rising to as high as 70 over the weekend in Aroostook County, donning a pair of ice skates was probably the last thing many thought of doing.

But that did not stop hundreds of people from coming out to the John A. Millar Civic Center Friday through Sunday for public skating events to celebrate the opening of another season on the rink.

About 100 skaters participated in Friday evening’s public skating session. That number seemed to be mirrored on Saturday afternoon as skaters of all ages took to the ice for the first time this season.

Additionally, free sessions were offered for those interested in trying hockey.

The unseasonably warm temperatures did make things a little more difficult this year, but certainly did not keep people from coming in, according to Civic Center Director Haley Nickerson. 

“I don’t recall a time that it has ever been this warm [while making ice],” Nickerson said Saturday afternoon while working in the concession booth during public skating. “It’s a little harder for the system to keep things cold. But it seems to be managing just fine.

“[The warm weather] certainly has not stopped people from coming in to skate,” she said.

Installing ice in the Civic Center is quite the process and actually begins long before the doors are open to the public.

It takes roughly a week from the time workers start to when they finish making the ice. A crew of approximately six people spend about a week and a half getting the rink ready for skaters.

The season typically runs from either late October or early November to mid-March, with groups such as the Southern Aroostook Minor Hockey Association and Houlton-Hodgdon Black Hawks varsity ice hockey team filling many of the open skating slots.

Nickerson said that during the ice-making process, the floor temperature is set to 17 degrees, which allows for water to freeze quickly. Once the floor has achieved ideal temperature, the crevices along the boards are sealed so that water does not flow out before it can become ice.

A labyrinth of tubing exists in the concrete floor of the arena, freezing the water from the ground level up. Nickerson said there is about nine miles of tubing located inside the floor, which many people are not aware of.

Unlike some ice rinks that leave their hockey boards up year round, the Houlton arena is a multi-purpose facility used for various events throughout the summer. That requires dismantling the boards at the end of each season.

Once the boards are all set up again to start the next season, the crew starts the compressor, which takes about a day to make the floor cold enough to freeze water.

A base layer of 3/16ths of an inch is created and then given a white base coat of paint to give the ice a brighter looking appearance.

For information on the Millar Civic Center, call 207-532-1313 or visit the center’s Facebook page.

HOULTON, Maine — November 5, 2022 — With temperatures reaching 70 outside, skaters of all ages took to the ice in large numbers Saturday at the Millar Civic Center (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — November 5, 2022 — A good crowd turned out Saturday afternoon for a public skating session at the Millar Civic Center in Houlton. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine — November 5, 2022 — Young skaters race around the rink Saturday afternoon at the Millar Civic Center (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)