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How to Ice a Diamond

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Illustration by Remie Geoffroi  

Locals yearning to watch hockey on the Bronx Bombers’ home turf finally get their day, with Devils-Rangers and Islanders-Rangers matchups in a rink atop the Yankees’ infield later this month. How does Yankee Stadium’s diamond morph into a sheet of ice? The transformation, which began January 13, is expected to take a week, weather permitting. Here, a step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Flatten the terrain
Because baseball fields usually have slight slopes to allow for drainage, Don Renzulli, the NHL’s senior vice-president of events, and his people identify the high point of the field. From here, they spend the rest of the day building a level, stagelike subfloor from four-by-eight-foot panels, which are then covered with plywood.

Step 2: Keep it cool
Aluminum trays are laid down on this base. Then, one of the league’s two custom-made, 300-ton-capacity refrigeration trucks, parked inside the stadium, will pump in up to 3,000 gallons of glycol coolant through hoses. Coolant lowers the trays’ temperature so water will freeze when it’s added.

Step 3: Build the boards
The boards that surround the new ice surface—44 individual panels, all told, each requiring two workers to carry—are then bolted down and braced with brackets on the back.

Step 4: Ice the rink
Workers make hundreds of passes spraying a fine mist into the trays. Ice for indoor NHL rinks is one and a quarter inches thick or less; outdoors, it takes two inches to ensure an even freeze.

Step 5: Achieve snow white
The ice surface is whitened with some 350 gallons of paint, and the rink’s lines and logos (which are made of a meshlike material) are laid down. More ice is then built on top.

Step 6: Make adjustments
A system called Eye on the Ice is embedded in the surface to measure the temperature, which must stay 22 degrees. If it gets too warm, additional glycol can be pumped in; if another polar vortex sweeps in, there’s an in-line heating system.

Step 7: Snow-dust
The finished rink runs from first to third base, and from just above the pitcher’s mound to short center field. For aesthetics, a league-owned snow machine is used to fabricate snow for the rest of the field—though if it’s too warm out, the backup plan is to roll out a white material that looks like snow. After the NHL games, the rink stays put until February 10.

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