It's too warm for oval crew to make ice

It might look wintery outside with all that snow on the ground but the weather in Prince George is certainly not conducive to making ice.

It’s been too warm to start flooding for the volunteer crew at the Exhibition Park Ice Oval and that’s not going to change any time soon, with above-average temperatures expected for the next five days.

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“We haven’t even had frost enough to begin to flood,” said Dick Voneugen, the 88-year-old former foreman of the oval’s ice maintenance crew. “We need minus-10, we can’t have thaw periods.”

Ten days of below-freezing daytime high temperatures and nights dropping into the minus double digits would be enough to allow crews to make enough ice for skating on the 500-metre oval, says Voneugen.

There is one virtually weatherproof solution to the ice oval’s problems. According to Voneugen, a $5 million investment would fix the weather woes.

“We could have been skating since November 1st if we had refrigeration,” said Voneugen.

A project to install pipes to artificially chill a concrete oval surface to extend the skating season has long been discussed by the Oval Society, even before the city moved the oval from the Exhibition Park race track to its current site behind the Kin Centre arenas in 2007.

“The city at one time became involved but I don’t know how far they took that to see if they could get a grant from Ottawa, like they did twice for Masich Place Stadium,” said Voneugen, who provides daily ice condition reports during the skating season for the media and the society’s website.

After the big dump Friday, a mostly sunny day is expected Saturday and Environment Canada is predicting matching -1 C high and low temperatures. That’s also expected on Sunday, with a high/low of 3 C and a 60 per cent chance of rain in the evening. The mild weather will continue Monday, with high of C and a low of -7C, followed by three sunny days with temperatures near the freezing mark for highs and lows ranging from -5Cto -9C. The average for this time of year is a high of -2 C and a low of -9 C.

When it does finally open for the season, skaters should be prepared for a few changes in the day-to-day operations of the oval due to provincial health office restrictions in place during the pandemic. Canfor House, the building used to provide a warm and dry place for skaters to put on and take off their blades, will remain closed because there isn’t enough room to guarantee physical distancing.

There will be no skate rentals and hours of operation could be reduced due to shortages of volunteer maintenance staff.

Skaters are encouraged to support the not-for-profit Prince George Ice Oval Society and help recoup the costs of operating and maintaining the equipment for flooding and snow clearing. Season memberships are $25 or $60 for each family. Day passes are $2 for individuals and $5 for families. The society also accepts donations as it continues to push for a refrigerated oval.

The society is always on the lookout for volunteers who want to help around the oval. The ice crew is now headed by Jerry Rowe. Go to www.pgoval.ca for more information.

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