After a successful 2015 marketing
a natural ice rink
in the middle of the
Molson went to new
heights for its 2016
“Anything for Hockey” campaign. This
time they decided to put a rink on the
roof of a Toronto skyscraper. To build
this rink they called on industry leader,
Custom Ice Inc. of Burlington, Ontario.
“I got a call from Molson’s ice maker
and thought he was crazy,” said Brendan
Lenko, president and chief engineer of
Custom Ice. At first they wanted to do
a full size rink, but when the ice maker,
BJ Gagnon of Smart Ice Inc., said the
building would only fit a 42-foot by 100-
foot rink, Lenko started to listen. Gagnon
would not reveal the customer, but
assured Lenko the project was for real.
Immediately Lenko said, “You gotta keep the pucks in with full raised netting,” but Gagnon and Molson engineers already had that covered. It involved tentstyle netting supported by two columns and a main cable running down the middle. The netting would be installed and removed regularly when the wind loads required it — but the net covered the rink completely with no puck mishaps. Custom Ice provided the NHL-approved netting which they obtained from ORFA member Pro Nets Sports.
Next was the access to the roof: “How big is the freight elevator?” Lenko asked Gagnon. But the elevator did not go to the roof. Helicopter? Not this time. Fortunately, Molson had already receivedapproval from PCL to use the crane that was erecting the building right next door to the 120 Adelaide St. rink location. How else could you get a 4,200 square-foot rink, boards, platform, and refrigeration equipment to the top of a 32-story skyscraper?
A Challenging Build
PCL could only provide the crane for two days: one day for the platform, two weeks before the install and the other day for all the rink equipment. With limited roof space, every component had to be orchestrated in sequence like a Broadway musical production. “We just could not box ourselves in,” said Lenko, whose company supplied more two truck-loads of rink equipment. It had to fit like a puzzle even before the rink was built and Custom Ice put together the puzzle perfectly.
The platform, insulation, piping and boards were all installed in one day. With the high winds 32 stories up, Molson engineers would not allow the platform to just rest on the roof without enough weight on it to hold it down. The roof was sloped, with a waterproof membrane so they could not fasten through it. The entire leveling platform and rink was just resting on the roof without any anchoring. It needed the weight to prevent the high winds from picking it up like a sail, so once the rink was ready it was turned on and flooded immediately.
Once the ice was made, Custom Ice installed the mullions and the plexiglass. “It was a bit scary installing the glass on the edge of the building wall,” said Lenko. “If you drop something it could fall 32 stories.” This was pretty dangerous. Lenko insisted they use three crew members to install each sheet of four-foot plexiglass. Although it was easy to lift by hand, Lenko’s team used suction cups to make sure they maintained control of the glass in the wind. Finally, a safety cable was tightly wrapped behind the mullions to give them extra strength against the wind.
Lenko admitted that they underestimated the high winds, which gusted to 80 and 90 kilometres per hour at times. The boards were frozen in place in the ice and when the glass went up, there was a much greater torque on the freeze in place board brackets. There were a couple of close calls, but Lenko, an engineer himself, was satisfied with the performance.
So this is all for what? Not just a 30-second beer commercial on Hockey Night in Canada. There was great interest in the rink when Toronto office workers came back from Christmas vacation and saw that a rink appeared when they looked down on a neighboring skyscraper. No one knew where it came from until Gagnon and the ice makers put the Molson logo down. It created lots of hype.
Because of the interest and great success of the rink, Molson extended the operation and offered the rink to corporate events and individual rentals. One hour of rooftop ice cost any group $2,000 and a three-hour corporate event complete with catering and the works cost $15,000. Of course, at those prices, Molson included a couple of Canadian beers for each skater.
“We wanted to do a great job for Molson,” Lenko said. “It was a once in a lifetime event for those that skated on the roof, but it was just as important to our company and our staff.” Custom Ice had their own corporate skate on the roof on its last night of operation. “Although we’ve built over 500 rinks, this one was special,” Lenko added. “It was absolutely majestic skating on the roof top rink under a quiet star filled sky. This one will be remembered.”
Brendan Lenko, P.Eng., is president
of Custom Ice Inc. He can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org or
www.customicerinks.com or by phone at