The CenturyLink Center is gearing up to get a lot of ice — and in a very short amount of time.
On Monday, crews moved into the facility's exhibition halls to begin building a 17,000-square-foot ice rink that will be used for practice during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. That event begins Sunday with novice and junior-level competitors, with senior-level skaters on the ice starting Thursday.
Competition will occur in the arena, on the same ice used for UNO hockey games. The practice ice will be built to the same specifications, which requires a significant effort in just a few days.
By Monday afternoon, a 10-person crew with a Texas company called Ice Rink Events was laying the first layers for the rink: foam insulation, covered by plastic liner, covered by tubes that keep coolant flowing under the ice. Once it's completed, more than 4,000 gallons of coolant will circulate through nearly 30 miles worth of tubing.
Tuesday, crews will begin pouring in the 20,000 gallons of water it will take to form a two-inch-thick sheet of ice.
By Friday, after the ice has been painted with the event's logos and sculpted with Zamboni machines, it will be ready for practice.
“The challenge is this week we have about four and a half days to build a real, championship-quality ice rink,” said Mike Clayton, owner and general manager of Ice Rink Events.
And the work won't be done when the practice rink is finished. The event will also include a smaller rink in the FanFest area, which will feature skating demonstrations and other events. Once the championships are over, the practice rink will be moved to TD Ameritrade Park for upcoming hockey games involving both the Omaha Lancers and the Mavericks.
So far, organizers have sold more than 33,000 tickets for the week-long event.
Harold Cliff, president and executive director of the Omaha Sports Commission, said officials are hoping for a big boost in sales in the lead-up to the championships. Attendance at the event in recent years has topped 100,000. To get to that mark, he said Omaha would need to sell closer to 50,000 tickets.
Cliff believes more people will buy tickets once the competition gets going and they see and hear more about what's going on downtown.
“We know it's a good event,” he said.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest names in ladies' skating announced Monday that an injury will force her out of competition in Omaha.
Alissa Czisny, a two-time national champion, dislocated her hip in a competition on Saturday. She'd been off the competitive circuit for most of the year after undergoing hip surgery, but was considered a serious challenger to defending gold medalist Ashley Wagner.
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