So you've finally decided you like the idea of investing in a synthetic ice rink for your hockey player or figure skater so they can enjoy ice skating at home. Then as you start to do your research you quickly become overwhelmed and wonder which way to turn after trying to educate yourself on what is truly the "Best" synthetic ice product available at a reasonable price.
When things start to get a little cray it's always best to take a step back and evaluate the reasons why you started your search in the first place. This can help you access what makes the most sense moving forward BEFORE buying your synthetic ice rink.
your research and take pen to paper to consider these four basic questions that you need to ask yourself before beginning your Home Rink project:
(Checkout this brief description: What is Synthetic Ice? https://youtu.be/mS9IUindnTE )
Who is the Rink for?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself once you begin the process. How would you classify your skater?:
- Advanced Skater
Beginner: If your synthetic ice rink is intended for a beginner that wants to learn how to skate, trust me when I say you do not need much more than 100 square feet to achieve this goal. The nice thing is there are many options available today that can help you create either a "skating lane" or runway for forward and backward strides or mini-rink shape for cross-overs and turns. The age and/or size of the skater will help you decide on the overall size of your start-up rink
Advanced Skater: If the rink project is for an advanced skater that you know has already committed a lot of time to work on their skills then you may feel more comfortable investing in a larger rink knowing it will be put to good use. Keep in mind that an advanced skater can also can make great use out of a smaller space
What is the Purpose of your Rink?
There are so many applications and reasons to install an artificial ice rink but simply put lets classify them as:
Recreational Use: If you simply want the easiest skating experience that feels the most natural when compared to real ice then purchasing an infused surface would be your ideal choice. An infused or “self-lubricating” synthetic ice surface is manufactured with a slip agent additive during the manufacturing process that makes it extra slick and reduces surface friction.
Training: If your skater is focused on trying to become a stronger skater then resistance is a good thing (as many trainers will tell you) and you don't necessarily have to find the product with the lowest coefficient of friction to achieve your goals. You can save yourself a considerable amount of money by going with a non-infused surface and adding a light application of silicone spray that will greatly “speed-up” the surface and reduce friction.
What Size Should Your Rink Be?In today’s Day in age there really is no limit to how big or small you can make your synthetic ice rink project. People looking for a simple gift for a friend or young one can purchase just a few lightweight panels and call it a day. Other folks may be avid skaters and want to go “all-in” with a scaled-down professional looking rink complete with Dasher Boards, Players Benches and Penalty box with scoreboard.
As with any backyard or home rink project there is literally no end to what you can create with a little bit of know-how and ingenuity! To help you work through this process let’s classify it simply as Small and Large:
Small (under 300 SF): Considering an average 1-car garage measures around 12ft x 22 ft. a standard 12’ X 20’ rink layout would maximize this space. If you rink is for a young skater to learn the basic skills of ice skating and hockey this is Plenty of space. USA Hockey has trumpeted the Small Games approach for many years now as a great way to repeat the fundamentals in a small confined space. Stride, crossover, turn, pivot and shoot!.....repeat!….repeat!….repeat!!
With figure skaters this is enough space to work on jumps and spins, two of the most important fundamentals of any routine! You DON’T need a lot of space to exercise the fundamentals of either of these sports!
When choosing a panel size for a small rink layout you have many options to consider for indoor rink projects. Thinner, smaller synthetic ice tiles are lightweight and portable and can be easily stored away. If your small rink is outdoors then a heavier ½” thick panel would be recommended in regions with large temperature swings from night to day.
Large (Over 300 SF): If you've allocated a large dedicated space for your rink (over 300 SF) you may want to opt for larger panels with less seams over your rink layout. If you’re planning a larger budget for a dedicated space then it makes no sense to use a small skating tile that will “pepper” your rink with seams that will accumulate dirt and be a challenge to keep clean.
Connection Types and Panel Sizes:
If you prefer a quicker connection method then the "dovetail" profile will help make your project a quicker one. If your space is for multi-purpose use and not just dedicated for the rink then it would be wise to choose a lighter, more portable panel for easy set-up and breakdown so the space can be quickly utilized for other things when not in use.
WIth a dedicated space you would want to consider a larger panel that will have less connections and overall seams on your synthetic ice surface. If you're not pressed for time with the installation of your rink you could entertain a spline or "tongue and groove" connection method that takes a little longer and involves multiple parts.
What is Your Budget?
No doubt, this one is the overall Bottom Line! Be sure to limit yourself to what you can afford BEFORE getting your synthetic ice project started. This is the ultimate reality check in deciding what truly makes sense and will address all your needs without making you broke.The good news is that there are now lightweight panels available on the market that can help you “Grow your Rink” along with your budget. If your rink project is for a young “learn to Skate” beginner you can simply set-up a small space for them to start taking Baby Steps that will soon turn into strides!
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By Jim Loughran, PolyGlide Ice