Spring storm could create challenging conditions at world men’s curling playdowns
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OTTAWA – A spring storm that’s expected to hammer the Ottawa area on Wednesday is an unwelcome reality for Chris Wynn, the senior director of operations at TD Place.
The aging 9,500-seat arena — which is hosting the world men’s curling championship — already has a few buckets in place around the concourse to deal with leaks.
With a freezing rain warning in effect Tuesday and a forecast calling for up to 45 millimetres of rain over a 36-hour period, Wynn’s team has been hard at work trying to prevent the possibility of on-ice leaks.
“The blood pressure is high,” Wynn said. “You do the best you can. It’s an aging facility. Concrete is concrete and water can find (its way) in the cracks and come out 100 feet away.
“We’ve done our best in trying to (prevent) that. (Wednesday) will be a test.”
Wet weather and temperature swings can also make life difficult for chief ice technician Dave Merklinger. The outdoor humidity was expected to rise significantly Wednesday as the mercury climbs over the freezing mark.
He closely monitors the forecast and will be on guard for leaks, which can significantly impact a curling sheet.
“We’ll have to deal with it,” Merklinger said of the weather. “And if there’s a little bit of frost (on the ice), we can deal with that, too.
“We have the ability actually to dry this building out a little bit, unlike other years I’ve made ice in here when there’s nothing except the elements of the outside air.”
Modifications to the building’s dehumidification, air conditioning and lighting systems have been made in recent years, Wynn said.
The unusually configured venue, which opened in 1968, is home to the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s. Most of the building’s suites are no longer functional and there are obvious signs of wear on the arena walls and ceilings.
“I’ll be on pins and needles all day and we’ll be ready to act,” Wynn said.
The venue hosted the Canadian men’s curling championship in 2016. Canada skip Brad Gushue said there were problems with frosty ice at that event.
“I enjoy playing in Ottawa but this building has been a challenge,” he said.
Gushue said he expects dehumidification to be a problem over the coming days.
“That ice during that Brier went through half a dozen variations and we’re experiencing the same thing here this week,” he said. “Every game it’s just different. Not bad, it is deteriorating quick, but it’s not bad ice.
“It’s just different each game and by the seventh end, it starts to deteriorate.”
And to add another wrinkle to the mix, Gushue said the rocks were expected to be textured on Tuesday night. He added it’ll be difficult to know what to expect when play begins Wednesday morning.
“Let your mind start believing what your eyes are seeing,” Gushue said. “And that’s a hard thing to do.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2023.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.