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How the Pettit Center has some of the best ice in the world

Pettit Center
Posted at 5:22 AM, Feb 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-19 19:46:11-05

MILWAUKEE — You could call it love at first sight, or destiny at first drive.

Needless to say, ice-making takes some serious attention to detail and the Pettit Center's Facility Director, Paul Golomski, should consider changing his title from the ice maker to ice magician.

"I played hockey as a youth hockey player and I was always the kid looking at the Zamboni," says Golomski. "You know, I started working here when I was in high school and never left."

At the Pettit Center, Golomski is the king of the ice.

"There is tangible, hard evidence of whether the ice is good or not with timed results. So we work hard to be considered one of the best rinks in the world to skate on," says Golomski.

A training facility for U.S. Speedskating and host for the long-track Olympic trials, Golomski's ice has to be gold-worthy every single day.

"We're dehumidifying the air, we're keeping it as warm as possible, but then we've got this refrigeration plant keeping the ice super cold and super hard. That way athletes can get up to 40 miles per hour on the long track here," says Golomski.

Let's not forget purifying the water, because minerals and blades don't mix.

"Minerals in the water tend to get rejected to the surface, cause friction with the blade, so we are not only purifying water but we are heating it to 160 degrees most of the time," says Golomski.

While minerals can be rough, the real nemesis of ice making is dirt.

"Dirt is also a big problem for ice making. So ice is just like a big floor and dirt can come into the building in the air, on shoes, on skates," explains Golomski.

That's where the Zamboni comes in.

"We're not just laying a new layer of ice with the Zamboni, we are also shaving the ice and there is a washing mechanism within the ice resurfaces," says Golomski.

For falls, or at the starting line - in places skaters dig into the ice - Golomski trades out the Zamboni for a bucket of slush.

"We do have to do repairs where we just take some slush and use a troll and like a mason. We'll patch in the ice repair and then we use CO2 from a fire extinguisher to quickly freeze it," says Golomski.

An expert in all things frozen, Golomski even knows what Olympic pressure feels like.

"Pyeongchang ice-making was the highlight of my career for me. And it was very tough to get my mind ready to do that. It's a very high-stress situation. You're making ice at the Olympics, you cannot screw up," says Golomski.

You also can't miss the morning weather report.

"Weather outside can play a big factor in it. If you get a really moist humid day, that can be really problematic for speed skating," says Golomski.

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