How Do Arenas Changeover from Ice Rink to Basketball Court? - The Intrepid

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Do Arenas Changeover from Ice Rink to Basketball Court?

In late-March, I spent the night at the Air Canada Centre with Torontoist photographers Chris Drost and Miles Story, to research how the arena pulls off its ice-to-court conversions. You can read my full article on the process at Torontoist.

To date, this is easily the most ambitious thing I've ever produced for the site (or for any site, for that matter). Coordinating with MLSE took more than a month; on the day of, I was at the ACC for almost 12 hours (8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.); and after I transcribed all of my interviews and notes from the night I had about 10,000 words worth of material. Yet somehow, I managed to pack it into a 1,500 word article. (Chris and Miles also took around 60,000 photos, which they compiled into the two minute video above. Amazing, amazing work.)

Anyway, I thought I'd use the opportunity here to talk about a few of the more interesting things that never made it into the article.

How Logos are Painted on the Ice

Contrary to popular belief, most of the logos at the Air Canada Centre—like the big maple leaf at centre ice—aren't painted on anymore. Like most other NHL arenas, the ACC uses a company called Jet Ice, which creates large vinyl mesh logos that can just be slapped down, and ripped out as necessary. Only a few of the ads and some of the special event logos are still painted.


After every game, the ACC employs a separate outsourced cleanup crew to work its way through the stands picking up trash, sweeping, and moping. Cleaning up after the fans takes almost as long as the conversion process.

Conversions at Maple Leaf Gardens

Back in the day, the Gardens just used to use plywood instead of frictionless ice deck when it converted to concerts. Wood sticks to ice, which made converting easier, as the entire deck didn't have to be down before forklifts could drive on it. The downside was, if it was down for too long, any trapped air between the pieces would start to chew through the ice, leaving giant holes that would need to be repaired.

How Other Arenas Do It

Unlike the ACC, which has a dedicated crew, some arenas in the States just pick people up off the street to do conversions. At 10 p.m., they'll open the doors and take the first 60 people who show up.

At the SkyDome, reportedly, baseball conversions take almost 24 hours.

Video by Chris Drost and Miles Story.


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