Ever since I picked up a hockey stick and skated around in the cold, I’ve daydreamed of playing hockey in skates, outside, in the warm summer air.
It was always a dream though, like the idea of warm summer snow.
But, this year, my life long dream is finally becoming a reality as I am starting the construction of my backyard summer ice rink.
Start Your Own Backyard Rink Project WIth The PolyGlide Ice Pro-Glide Panel
In this post, plus a whole series I am planning, I am going to share the process of planning, building, and using our backyard summer synthetic ice rink.
I’ll share what I do right, and i’ll admit to what I do wrong (there will be a lot I am sure!) so that hopefully if you choose to do the same, you can learn from my mistakes and successes.
Who Am I
My name is Ryan and I’m a Minnesota hockey dad.
I currently have 4 kids playing hockey, two twin 4 years olds just starting out, a squirt, U15, and a high school player.
With this many kids playing hockey, we are always looking for ways to get more practice time in that is convenient and inexpensive.
Convenient is really the main thing for me.
With 7 kids total (2 are out of the house), we are running around all the time.
I wanted the ability for my kids to simply go into the back yard, play hockey, and honestly, not bother me sometimes!
1. Research the Product
I first learned about synthetic ice in late 2019 and thought it sounded pretty cool.
I had a big shop in the back yard and thought synthetic ice could be a great way for my kids to get some extra practice time in.
I placed these tiles in my shop amazingly about 2 months before the Covid 19 lockdown shut everything down.
While the tiles were a hit, my hockey playing kids were much younger and honestly, they weren’t nearly as into hockey as they are today.
My current U15 and squirt players are extremely into the sport at the moment.
My U15 plays in every camp and league possible and doesn’t miss a day of shooting 250 pucks into the backyard net (note: she’s on pace for 30,000 this summer due to her amazing new backyard rink!).
As my kids got bigger, the problem we started experiencing was that 400 sq ft wasn’t really big enough to really skate aggressively on and we really wanted something the kids could practice better with skates on.
Also, my wife decided last summer to turn my shop into her own “pool house” (we don’t have a pool…), so there’s that….
2. Create a Plan
My plan is to up my synthetic ice to 640 square feet and create a 16’ x 40’ outdoor rink.
This is roughly the size of our winter real ice rink, which is great for shooting and skating.
I also decided to sell my original home ice tiles and invest in Polyglide’s Pro-Glide Panel.
Synthetic Ice tiles update:
I chose not to sell them and rather create a basement stick handling pad for rainy days since the kids can’t handle a day off from hockey….
Because the home ice tiles last so long, I should have no problem selling them as they still have a lot of life left in them.
3. Find The Right Location
We have an area that is about 20’x40’ on the north side of our home that we use for our winter rink.
It works great because it is in the shade and the ice doesn’t get hammered by the sun on sunny winter days.
This will be the location for our synthetic rink as well.
If the synthetic outdoor rink goes well, I’m not 100% sure that we’ll continue with a real ice rink as the work vs the number of days we can actually use the rink is just so lopsided.
This location should work perfectly for the synthetic rink.
It’s not perfectly level, but close enough that I don’t think creating a level surface will be too difficult.
4. Choose the Ideal Base
I looked into a lot of different options and tried to find other people who had done the same as I plan on doing.
First, not many people have built something like this.
Most people that I found who invested in an outdoor synthetic ice rink typically put it on top of an existing basketball court.
We don’t have one of those sadly.
So I had to come up with my own plan.
I figured I could do concrete, a sport court, or a shed base.
Concrete is expensive, a lot of work, has no give, and is permanent.
This option would likely have cost me in the range of $6,000 - $8,000 (or more).
This would be more than the synthetic ice and make the whole project far too expensive.
A sport court would be ideal in my opinion, but is even more expensive than concrete.
So finally, I decided to go with a shed base.
I figure that I can build it since it isn’t complicated, requires no permit, and is drastically cheaper than the alternative options.
5. Choose Quality Grade Materials
This step for me was a bunch of trail and error.
Admittingly, I was on a budget and even worse, I have very limited knowledge with this sort of thing.
So… I’ll share with you what I did right and what I wish I had done differently.
As with almost all projects I’ve ever done, If I had to do it over again, I know how I could make it a lot better!
After looking all over the internet and finding next to nothing about building a backyard synthetic rink, I decided to go with a shed base for my foundation.
A shed base is a simple wooden framework with construction lumber and plywood to make a base.
I figured that since I am not building an actual shed on top of this base, I don’t need to over-engineer the base (note from future Ryan, this was both true and false!).
I decided to go with a simple 2x4 base construction and ½” tongue and groove plywood…..
Edit: I had to delete this section out of the post it was such a bad idea.
The cheap version of Ryan came out and nearly ruined this project!
After building a small section with 2"x4"s on a block base,
I knew immediately I had screwed up!
It was time to suck it up and do this project right or not at all.
The new plan was to build out a 16’ x 40’ rink base using treated 2"x6" and space them every 16”.
On top of that, I’d cover it with ¾” tongue and groove OSB with exterior glue.
Lastly, I’d coat the whole thing in exterior primer and top coat to give it an extra seal against the weather.
This new plan created a much sturdier base and costing roughly $1000 in materials.
Rink Project Update
We’ve been using the rink for about 2 full months so far (about 2-3 hours a day) and it is holding up great.
I’ll get more into the build in a future post for those of you who want to know more details.
A few issues I saw in my small sample of building with a 2x4 frame and ½ plywood:
- The platform had far too much “give” and would sink under your feet. This would inevitably create issues where the synthetic ice panels connected as well as create a bad skating experience.
- There’s no chance the plywood would have held up long term to the Minnesota weather.
My current base should last me many years as long as I take care of it.
Even though the OSB is made with exterior glue, I am thinking that I may remove the synthetic ice once every year or two and recoat the platform with exterior paint just to make sure I don’t have any issues with the OSB.
I am planning on creating a series of posts involving my rink.
I’ll take you along as I build it and share what worked well and what didn’t.
Once the rink is up, I’ll share with you my up keep routine, how I maintain the rink, and switching it from a summer rink to a winter rink.
Finally, I’m planning on sharing our practice plans and drills that we’ll be using on the ice once completed.
So make sure not to miss a post and sign up for the Polyglide email.
If you'd like to start your own backyard synthetic ice project, you can grab some PolyGlide Pro-Glide Panels right here (and tell them "Ryan" sent you ;-)