GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Outdoor ice rinks continue to grow in popularity as a familiar sign of the holiday season. That’s because these outdoor rinks aren’t just limited to colder climates and below-freezing conditions. In the Carolinas, thousands of skaters can enjoy real ice in the sun. So how is that possible?
“We feel like once the rink goes in places that sets the tone and spirit for the holiday season in Greenville,” Downtown Greenville Project Manager Cameron Campbell said.
Ice on Main, which has been a part of Upstate winters since 2011, is one of the most popular outdoor rinks in the Carolinas. The downtown rink draws in between 8,000 and 10,000 ice skaters to Greenville each year.
“We’re excited for everyone to come to the rink with their families and friends and create memories for the holidays,” Campbell said.
Cold winter days are ideal for fun on the ice, but temperatures in the Carolinas are usually much warmer than that. So, the fun on the ice relies on what’s going on below the surface.
In fact, Upstate high temperatures in mid-December and mid-January average around 55 to 52. We all learned that you need temps below 32 degrees to get and keep ice. So how do they keep the rinks operating when temps are in the 50s and 60s?
“It’s a little complex,” Seasonal Ice Project Manager John Vaughn said. “I mean you got to make sure you have enough shade to stay cool, a good area. The best thing is to keep it out of sunlight.”
Two things make outdoor rinks possible: chillers and glycol.
To keep the ice cold enough for skaters, the rink uses a minus-5-degree chiller, which is essentially a very large refrigerator that runs for 24 hours a day. And if you think of the chiller as refrigerator then glycol is the refrigerant. Glycol runs through the pipes, creating freezing temps. It takes about two to three days to create the ice at the downtown Greenville ice rink and about five days to build the rink itself.
“We can run in mid 70s, low 80s as long as it’s not direct, beating sunlight on the rink,” Vaughn said.
About the only that will sideline skaters is rain. That’s because water melts the ice. Rain raises the temperatures on the surface and causes the rink ice to melt.
As long as the chillers are running and the glycol is flowing, skaters can enjoy a sign of the season no matter the temperature! Ice on Main runs through January 17 and is open Monday thru Friday from 2-9 p.m. and weekends from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Click here for more information.