Why no ice will put Jordan Valley on ice for so long

Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 7:08 PM CDT
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Springfield Park Board officials say it will be at least three weeks before they can get the ice back at Jordan Valley Ice Park and until then all open skate sessions, Learn to Skate classes, figure skating sessions and hockey practices are suspended as repairs are underway on a mechanical problem that developed over the weekend with the system that keeps the ice frozen on the facility’s two rinks.

According to officials, Jordan Valley Ice Park has about 300,000 visitors pass through its doors during a typical non-pandemic year.

And one of them who passed through those doors 17 years ago became an international figure skating star.

Gracie Gold, an Olympic bronze medalist and two-time U.S. National Champion, laced up her first pair of skates at Jordan Valley in 2003 at the age of eight. As she told Jay Leno in an appearance on the Tonight Show, " I went to a birthday party at the local ice rink and there were freestylers on the ice in the middle spinning and jumping. They were having so much fun and I was totally starstruck."

Who knows if there are any more champions training at Jordan Valley but for now they have no place in the city to practice their craft as the two rinks are empty of ice and the staff is working to repair the facility’s internal ice plant, a system with compressors, pumps and a chiller that keeps the ice rink surface frozen. Parks staff worked throughout the weekend to remove melting ice from both rinks.

The next step is getting replacement parts and supplies needed to fix the problem and that could take a while.

“A lot of the parts are not parts that are on warehouse shelves here in town so they have to be ordered," explained Jenny Fillmer Edwards, the Public Information Administrator for the Springfield-Greene Co. Park Board. "And sometimes they have to be made specifically for the plant.”

Built in 2001, the park never had any problems with its ice until the past two years. The other incident occurred in 2019 when a portable unit broke down while being used to replace the main ice plant, which was undergoing scheduled maintenance.

The extended wait this time is because even once the parts are acquired and the repairs are made, the ice rinks will be brought back one at a time, each taking about a week to rebuild as layer-after-layer of water is hand-sprayed on the sub-freezing floor until the ice is 1¼-inch thick.

“It has to be 15 degrees on the surface of this floor to even begin building ice," Fillmer Edwards said. "You don’t just fill the whole thing and wait for it to freeze like an ice cube tray.”

And while many Springfiedians may never use this facility, Filler Edwards pointed out that it is one of the original cornerstones of the attempt to reinvigorate downtown and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“All the parks are publicly-owned and maybe you don’t use your nearest park or the ice park as much as your neighbors do but your neighbors are using the ice park," she said. "This was one element of a larger downtown development that citizens in Springfield helped put together. But in 2001 when the doors opened here, downtown redevelopment was sort of in its infancy and this was a big part of that (growth). This is a very busy building. If you want to see a busy parking lot in a busy part of downtown, come down here on a Friday night during Missouri State Ice Bear season.”

The Ice Bears season, by the way, is not affected by the lack of ice for the moment because their season has been postponed until January because of COVID-19.

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