International Client Testimonials

Instant ice rinks – how do they do it?

By Marc White, UK Sales Director of Carrier Rental Systems

Greenwich ice rink

This year the UK has seen a larger number of festive ice rinks than ever before. They have been enjoyed throughout the length and breadth of the country in town squares and at historic venues. Certainly, Carrier Rental Systems, in its previous guise as CRS, part of the Longville Group, has reported that it has provided the largest number of ice rink mats and chillers to the industry to date. We supplied almost thirty rinks over the winter. Much of this success is down to the long-term relationships that we have developed with several customers who specialise in providing the whole ice skating experience to hundreds of thousands of amateur and a few professional skaters. This year, one of those customers, Alan Abretti, a former international skating star himself and now Ice Operations Director for Cousins Entertainment, one of Robin Cousins’ skating enterprises, has provided for more customers than ever before.

The relationship between expert ice supplier and these very specialist entertainment companies is built on several things, as Alan has explained to me several times. The provision of ice rinks comes about as the result of three types of business models: either a proposal from the entertainment company to a venue and the company then provides the whole commercial package paying a rent and taking the surplus; or it is a joint venture with a historic venue or a municipal authority with shared responsibilities; or it is a service hired to an event operator. In all cases there are certain technical requirements that a supplier like Carrier Rental Systems has to take into account.

Cousins Entertainment, for example, demands extremely high levels of reliability from the chiller equipment, experienced commissioning engineers, consideration for the constraints of the venue, which always means a pre-installation site survey in our case, 24 hour technical support and rapid and timely de-rigging. Alan is always very complimentary and says that our experienced engineers are “second to none in their industry knowledge”. After all, Carrier Rental Systems did originally provide the rink-making equipment for Torvill and Dean’s first tour.

How it works

A typical ice rink might need three 200 kW chillers for say a 16 by 36 metre rink such as the one installed at Winchester Cathedral at Christmas. Cousins likes to specify heat pump machines as this function helps with de-installation which has to reverse the installation process. These machines will refrigerate the liquid glycol/water mix that is continuously pumped through the rink mat. The mat is commonly made up of 20 ml aluminium tubing in a rollable composite matrix. We provide a header/manifold that manages the distribution. There is no more than a 1ºC temperature difference across the mat at a pressure of 1.9 bar.

A 2000 litre buffer tank holds the glycol mixture which has a freezing point of -25ºC. The chillers are set at between -6.5ºC and -7.5ºC to maintain the rink water in an ice state. We leak test the system at -12ºC.

Tap water is run over the mat from hoses and left to freeze overnight to create the ice surface, which then has to be conditioned and managed by experts such as Alan Abretti.

The chillers do, of course, usually also need a temporary power supply from a generator, which we can also supply. We always provide a standby, which many companies don’t and we provide the fuel management too. The power generation is critical from the customer’s point of view because wet ice or even no ice can damage a rink’s reputation, which may have taken several seasons to build up.

What the skater needs

An outdoor rink will have natural ice that is grey white in colour but will reflect the light of the day. Indoor rinks have to be painted – a more complex process. The surface of the outdoor ice will be coarser than indoors and will be subject to greater wear and tear – needing significant maintenance from the machinery that has been specially designed to do the job. Skaters need the ice quality to be maintained and no surface water that might result from the temporary loss of a chiller or compressor circuits.

What the venue needs

Reliability and consideration are the two most important things that we can supply in regards to a venue. In a typical Carrier Rental Systems installation there may be as many as twelve compressor circuits providing a high degree of reliability. Our experience of UK sites gives us a particular expertise when it comes to site conditions, which may be within a listed building complex as in the case of Winchester Cathedral. Power can be saved if the outdoor temperature remains low enough. An on-site management team can keep this carefully monitored to the client’s advantage. After the event, water may need to be pumped away and the run off area will need to be carefully considered. The glycol is reclaimed for cleaning and re-use.

In conclusion, this is a specialist field where an expert equipment hire company that has experience of events and particularly of ice can score highly. There are still detailed areas of technical specialism that remained unexplored here but that might make the subject of further articles in future.

For more information contact us now on + (65) 6261 0800 or e-mail

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