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Ice Resurfacing Machine Caught Fire at Bill Gray’s Iceplex in Rochester, No Injuries

WROC reports tonight that an ice resurfacing machine caught fire at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex in Rochester NY. There was no apparent damage to the building and WROC reports that no injuries were reported.

Zamboni Fire at Bill Gray's Regional Iceplex in Rochester
Zamboni Fire at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex in Rochester (Photo: Russ Bitely, @russbites on Twitter)

The Olympia ice resurfacing machine caught fire just after it had begun resurfacing the ice in one of Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex’s four 200-by-85-foot ice sheets. The driver, Jordan Curtis, managed to keep the Olympia moving while it was on fire until it exited the ice through the service doors. At that point the fire was put out, presumably by fire extinguishers.

Russ Bitely who appears to have been in the building when the fire broke out also apparently captured video of the later stages of the Olympia fire.

From the appearance of the ice in the photo and the video, it appears that the Olympia began leaking hydraulic fluid on to the ice as soon as the driver put the conditioner down on to the ice.

According to machine specifications that RinkAtlas reviewed on the Zamboni.com website, a modern ice resurfacing machine is normally loaded with 16 gallons (60.6 liters) of hydraulic fluid. Many common hydraulic fluids are flammable, which probably explains the fire that broke out aboard this Olympia.

Here’s another angle on the fire, grabbed by Mary Prusak from the LiveBarn feed for Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex. In this clip, you can see that the Olympia pulled on to the ice, lowered the conditioning unit amid a loud revving sound, began leaking hydraulic fluid on to the ice, and almost immediately burst into flames. Taking these two videos together, RinkAtlas estimates that the resurfacing machine driver drove about 350 feet with the Olympia in flames.

This article is an example of the news coverage about ice arenas and the hockey business in North America that you can find at RinkAtlas. For more RinkAtlas news, visit https://rinkatlas.com/blog.

Updates on the Story

On October 16, we learned that the ice resurfacing machine that caught fire was an Olympia, not a Zamboni-brand machine. You can see the branding of the resurfacing machine on the LiveBarn video clip posted by @maryprusak. But credit for that discovery actually goes to Marcia Greenwood of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle in her article Ice-resurfacing machine catches fire while cleaning Brighton rink; driver extinguishes blaze.

How Other Media is Covering This Story

New Single-Sheet Ice Rink in Reno Scheduled to Open in December

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported on Friday that construction on the first phase of a new single-sheet ice rink south of Reno Nevada should be completed in December. The rink will be named The Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice Arena, also known as Reno Ice.

Reno Ice Rink Site Plan
“Reno Ice is building a year-round ice rink in south Reno” (Jeff Frame, Frame Architecture Inc., via Reno Gazette-Journal).

According to the article, “Reno Ice will have private lessons, public ice skating sessions, hockey leagues, broomball, curling, trade shows, tournaments, performances and figure skating.”

Brad Richter, the construction superintendent on the project reportedly is a hockey player himself, having grown up in Waunakee, Wisconsin and played for the Madison Capitols of the USHL.

The arena is part of a larger South Valleys Regional Sports Complex, which includes mutiple baseball and softball fields.

By RinkAtlas’ count, this is only the ninth arena complex in Nevada, and that counts some major sports arenas that are normally inaccessible for amateur hockey and figure skating. Nevada is definitely under-rinked, considering its rapidly-growing population.

RinkAtlas Arena Directory Updates

Ice-Plex Closes, Major Local Arena Complex in Escondido California

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Saturday on the closing of Ice-Plex Escondido, a two-Olympic-sheet arena complex between north of San Diego. According to the article:

“{Rumors} have swirled among the hockey and skating communities about possible backroom deals, greedy owners and unspoken scandals causing the closure. But the truth is more simple. The nine-acre project’s owner, Southwest Generation in Colorado, had been losing between $100,000 and $200,000 a year on the facility since 2016 due to outdated equipment, high maintenance costs and the need for $2 million in retrofitting and repairs.”

“During the spring and early summer months of this year, Southwest Gen met with six different ice rink and hockey organizations who were interested in leasing the facility. But none of them signed on the dotted line because they couldn’t find a way to operate the center profitably. Southwest Gen had offered potential lessees a free, five-year lease on the property in exchange for the tenant agreeing to cover the $2 million in needed repairs.” — Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune

The Ice-Plex was a Side-Business for a Power Generating Company

This is a great article about an indoor arena complex that might be unique in North America– both in the way it was built and how it operated. The owner, Southwest Generation, seems like it should be a bigger part of the energy infrastructure of Southern California than it apparently is.

This company built the Ice-Plex as a way to use the steam generated by its gas-fired power plant (known as The Goal Line Power Plant) at the same site. But Goal Line became a “stranded cost” in the politics of the evolution of California’s regulated utility markets. Along the way the Ice-Plex, which depends upon the power plant’s steam output to operate, became also became a white elephant.

Another great aspect of Pam Kragen’s reporting is that she talks to leaders in the hockey and figure-skating communities. Reporters so often fail to locate and talk to the people who are the biggest users of a closed facility, so we never hear how the closure impacts them.

The Ice-Plex was Over a Quarter of the San Diego County Indoor Ice Market

The Ice-Plex was the only skating facility in San Diego County with two full-size ice sheets. It’s one of only a few facilities in North America with two Olympic-sized sheets. And the permanent closure of Ice-Plex represents the loss of 28 percent of the available ice in San Diego County.

It’s really important that investors step up, buy this facility, and retrofit it, or build another arena complex in the San Diego area. Otherwise, hockey, figure skating, short-track, and broom ball are all likely to shrink.

RinkAtlas Arena Directory Updates

  • Ice-Plex Escondido: Name updated, number of rinks, size of rinks, opening date, closing date added. Arena marked closed.


Referee Attacked at Pittsburgh Ice Arena After Penalty Call

The Valley News Dispatch reported that a referee in a men’s league game at Pittsburgh Ice Center was physically attacked by a player on the ice. The referee, Mario de Leon, had just called a holding penalty when he was reportedly punched by Jeremy Gregory Gilbert. Gilbert is also alleged to have driven de Leon’s head into the ice after de Leon fell down.

Pittsburgh Ice Arena is a two-sheet arena complex in New Kensington, PA, 21 miles northeast of Downtown Pittsburgh. The arena also contains a fitness facility.

In a subsequent article Mario de Leon said that he officiates lacrosse and wrestling in addition to hockey, and that he has no intention of hanging up his skates as a result of this experience.

NJ Governor Murphy issued an Executive Order Allowing Hockey with No Spectators

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued an Executive Order today allowing indoor ice hockey to resume with no spectators. This is Executive Order Number 187. According to the press release:

“All indoor practices and competitions are limited to 25% of the capacity of the room, but not more than 25 or less than 10 persons.  However, if the number of individuals who are necessary for practice or competition, such as players, coaches, and referees, exceeds 25, the practice or competition may proceed if no unnecessary individuals such as spectators are present.  Even if this exception applies, the number of individuals at the practice or competition cannot exceed 25% of the capacity of the room, and such limit cannot exceed 150 persons.”

Full text of Executive Order 187 on NJ.gov.

Coverage of this Story by Other Media Outlets

All indoor sports can resume in N.J., Murphy says. That includes ice hockey games, NJ.com: “…Limitations on indoor sports had become an issue in recent weeks as players, parents, and some Republican lawmakers pushed Murphy, a Democrat, to allow youth ice hockey to resume games. Hockey is typically played at indoor ice rinks, but indoor games had been barred until Monday.”

“Proponents of allowing hockey to resume argued there’s minimal risk of players contracting COVID-19 because ice rinks have strong ventilation and players make little contact with each other….”

Temporary Closure Kent State Ice Arena Has Huge Impact on Amateur Hockey

News 5 Cleveland reported Sunday that Kent State University Ice Arena was closed on September 25 until further notice, leaving area youth and amateur hockey without a place to practice. The cause of this closure is the spread of COVID-19 on Kent State’s campus. The University statement read in part:

“Due to ongoing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Kent State Ice Arena will be closed until further notice, effective Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, to all users within the university and the general public….”

“The ice arena had not been opened to Kent State students or the general public for fall semester, but was being used by Kent State student organizations, several area high school hockey teams and regional hockey clubs.” –Kent State University Statement

Kent State University Ice Arena is home to Kent State University’s ACHA Division I and Division III Men’s Hockey Teams as well as youth hockey programs such as the Kent Cyclones Youth Hockey Program.

In places like Kent, Ohio, the nearest rink is 30 to 60 minutes away if your local rink is closed for any reason. This could have a devastating effect on ice hockey and figure skating if closures like this become more wide-spread in COVID-19’s expected second wave.

Hundreds of Youth Hockey Players in Maine and NH Forced to Quarantine After Referee’s Positive COVID-19 Case

The Portland Press-Herald reported Thursday that 400 people in Maine and New Hampshire have been quarantined as a result of a positive COVID-19 test on a referee who officiated 8 youth hockey games in two days on October 3 and 4. According to the article, “The games were played on Saturday and Sunday at the Biddeford Ice Arena, North Yarmouth Academy and Merrill Fay Arena in Laconia, N.H., the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.”

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC also said:

“If you or a family member was on the ice for one of these games, you should consider yourself a close contact of someone with COVID-19. You should quarantine yourself for 14 days since your exposure on the ice.”

The article lists the specific games that the infected referee officiated, including arenas where they took place and the times of the games.

RinkAtlas has previously reported on situations where close contact analysis on infected participants in hockey wasn’t properly done (see the article about the USPHL below).

It appears that the Maine CDC is taking the complete opposite approach by considering everyone who participated in games where an infected person was on-ice as close contacts.

The other issues that this case points out are:

  1. The regulations are unclear regarding whether full amateur hockey games can be played in Maine. The Press-Herald reported in a related article that Youth Hockey isn’t permitted to play inter-squad games under Maine’s current community sports guidelines. In another article, it discusses the debate about Maine’s community sports guidelines, which appear to be recommendations, but the Department of Health and Human Services discusses as if they are regulations.
  2. The tendency by youth hockey associations to employ a small number of certified USA Hockey officials to officiate relatively large numbers of games is an additional risk. One infected official participated in 8 youth hockey games in two days. A small number of officials working a large number of games in a local area on a weekend is fairly common in the United States. But it is an increased risk during a pandemic like the one we are experiencing at the moment.
  3. The estimated number of people exposed according to the Maine CDC exceeds the maximum number of players on the rosters in eight games. If each team was different in the eight reported games, then the total number of players theoretically exposed would be 320 (8 games x 2 unique teams x 20 player roster). If you add four bench personnel per team, a time keeper, a score keeper, two penalty box attendants, and two referees, the number is 320 + 112 (8 games x [8 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 2]) = 432.

Thanks to Jim Britt for pointing this story out to us.

Updates on This Story

The Maine Amateur Hockey Association cancelled all games through at least Tuesday, October 13. Mike Keaney its president said, “I apologize for the late notice but the board feels that it is in the best interest of all involved to cancel until we can get clarification from the Maine Department of Human Services regarding playing this season. Attempts to reach them for clarification were unsuccessful this afternoon {Friday}.”

RinkAtlas Arena Directory Updates

USPHL Weekend Series in Marietta Georgia Called a “Super-spreader” COVID-19 Event

The Charlotte News & Observer reported on October 3 that the Junior Hurricanes USPHL Premier and Elite Teams traveled to Marietta, played the Atlanta Mad Hatters, and dozens of players from both teams tested positive for COVID-19 shortly thereafter. The series took place at Atlanta Ice House in Marietta, approximately 24 miles northwest of Downtown Atlanta.

The sequence of events that led to this large outbreak are well documented by sports columnist Luke DeCock. In summary:

  • “Several players and staff {from the Junior Hurricanes} tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the trip and were left at home”
  • “players and staff who tested negative were allowed to travel and play”
  • after the series ended, “more players on the Junior Hurricanes teams tested positive” along with “at least 19 of their opponents with the Atlanta Mad Hatters”

RinkAtlas initially held off on reporting about this story, because it’s difficult to determine exactly how much either team knew about the apparent outbreak before the first game in Marietta that took place on Saturday, September 26.

However, in retrospect, it seems clear that the Junior Hurricanes management was aware that several people had tested positive for COVID-19 before they left on the road trip. In situations like this, an assessment needs to be made of close contacts to the people who had already tested positive, and those people need to be quarantined immediately.

What happened instead was the USPHL Testing Policy was followed, which “Require all players and team personnel to take a COVID-19 rapid test within 24 hours of departing on any overnight trip in which the team will be traveling within team bus/vans.”

The difference between quarantining close contacts and only quarantining people who test positive by a COVID-19 rapid test is significant, and that is likely to be the reason for most or all of the infections in the aftermath of the initial COVID-19 infections on the Junior Hurricanes.

RinkAtlas Arena Directory Updates

  • Atlanta Ice House is added as the 4,691st arena in the RinkAtlas Arena Directory. We believe that it is the 11th arena where ice hockey can be played in the State of Georgia, although a few of the arenas we list are large sports arenas, so the true number is likely to be somewhat smaller.


UBS Arena on Long Island Topped Off; Opening Set for Fall 2021

WABC Television News reported Friday that the owners of UBS Arena held a “topping off” ceremony. The girder positioned at the highest point in the building was signed, raised into position, and permanently integrated into the building.

According to the article, “Governor Andrew Cuomo joined Empire State Development Board Chair Steven Cohen, Acting Commissioner Eric Gertler, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, and Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky to place the highest steel beam atop the new arena.”

UBS Arena is planned to be a 19,000 seat arena that will become the centerpiece of the $1.26 billion Belmont Park Redevelopment Project. The arena is expected to be completed in the Fall of 2021. UBS Arena will become the home of the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League in the 2021-2022 season.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is concurrently building a new Elmont Station for the Long Island Railroad. This is the first brand new station constructed in 50 years on the busiest commuter railroad in North America.

NJ Assemblymen Urge Governor Murphy to Let Hockey Play

CentralJersey.com reports Assemblymen Ron Dancer (R-Burlington, Monmouth, Middlesex, Ocean) and Kevin J. Rooney (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic) are calling on New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to Let Hockey Play and allow athletes to return to ice rinks.

Assemblyman Dancer said, “Ice hockey officials have consulted with medical professionals to design a safe return to the rink. I have spoken with parents, players and local associations and they are confident we have the protocols in place to protect against the transmission of the coronavirus. As programs like football start back up, it is illogical to exclude ice hockey, a sport with no skin-to-skin contact and players that don’t come into contact with the puck.”

In their press release, Assemblymen Rooney and Dancer went on to say, “New Jersey’s Department of Health defines hockey as a medium risk sport. Beginning July 8, no-contact ice hockey practices were permitted to return indoors, however, sports in the medium risk category are currently only able to participate in competitions outdoors. We are urging Gov. Murphy to work with us. Be a team player and allow ice hockey athletes to responsibly resume indoor competitions and scrimmages.”