There are various forms of sports and these include team and individual sports. There are ball games, racquet sports, sprints, fists games, and a whole lot of other varieties and categories. As it is, most sports are readily playable all year round whether indoors or outdoors. The one exception to this is winter sports. This is because they need snow or ice surfaces for the sports to be played.
Examples of these kinds of sports are ice skating, figure skating, skiing, ice hockey and sledding. Other examples are curling, snowboarding, etc. Like every sport, ice games do have their playing surface called ice rinks. You can see how a rink is made here.
Since winter is only about three to four months in a year, it means that these games cannot hold afterward. Rather than waiting for winter or be limited to four months to enjoy winter sports, there are synthetic ice rinks. Fake or synthetic rinks help athletes enjoy winter sports even during warm weather when there is no snow. In essence, it can even be used in hot climates that do not experience winters.
An Introduction to Synthetic Ice
While natural rinks are frozen bodies of water, artificial ones are made of hardened chemicals. Synthetic ones are made from plastic. They all have smooth surfaces that allow for easy gliding. Most synthetic rinks are located indoors and they allow winter sports to be played even during warm weather.
Synthetic ice is made with polymer materials. HDPE (high-density polyethylene) is the most used type of polymer. UHMW-PE (Ultra-high Molecular Weight Polyethylene) has also been used by some manufacturers in more recent times.
Synthetic rinks are constructed using interlocking panels. They are manufactured in a way that is close to what is obtainable on natural rinks. Some other rinks are made with materials like wax but these are not quite popular.
To create a synthetic rink, several panels are assembled on a smooth, level, sturdy and spacious sub-floor. This sub-floor can be wood, concrete, or even grass. These panels can be connected in various ways.
When using natural ice, the temperature of the top layers increases due to the skate blade when skating. This causes it to melt and produce small quantities of water that decreases the drag of the surface. This results in the blade gliding over the ice. A synthetic surface may be designed to have a liquid enhancement to reduce drag but this is not necessary.
Advantages of Synthetic Rinks
While natural ice is good, it has its downsides. One of the prominent downsides is a lack of availability all-year-round. Synthetic ice works as an alternative to that and below are its benefits. You will find more of its benefits here https://www.sportsgossip.com/pros-and-cons-of-synthetic-ice-for-skating/.
It Costs Less
The cost of keeping a synthetic rink functioning is not as expensive as a natural one. It does not require water nor refrigeration. No need to maintain the temperature or humidity neither does it require compressors to freeze or energy to power them. This means that you do not have to incur the cost of water and electricity.
It is Easy to Install
It is complicated to install a traditional rink and this comes with several costs. There are several components you need to put in place such as the refrigerator and compressor. You also need to lay a water-resistant mat layer on the surface before installing and then cover the tubing. All these take a lot and on top of that, you pay for water and electricity.
Besides, after winter is gone, the rink needs to be taken down and re-installed when winter returns. What this means is a repetition of the installation process with its associated cost and stress. On the contrary, synthetic ice requires a one-time installation. From then on, it can last many years without a reduction in quality.
Furthermore, plastic rinks comes in interlocking panels which can be manufactured to size to fit whatever area that you need it. They may be big or small depending on your choice. They will also fit into any space whether small or big. In fact, you can have a private one in your home for training and recreational purposes. It can also be made available for commercial use in sporting facilities and other institutions.
Additionally, they may be used to create different scenarios that are impossible with water and natural ice. Such scenarios includes creating inclines, curves, or a banked surface.
It is Easy to Maintain
Fake ice is easy to maintain. They are self-lubricating and have UV protection which helps to preserve their chemical stability. The UV protection also helps to avoid discoloration. There is also no need to keep resurfacing it every few hours even with continuous use. You just simply use a vacuum cleaner to pick up any shavings that are left after its use.
It Can Be Used Indoors or Outdoors
Another advantage of fake rinks is that they can be used practically anywhere whether indoors or outdoors. Natural ones require a lot of space and they can only be used outdoors in a big and open space. You can have a synthetic rink in your basement and you do not need to worry about your home getting flooded.
It Can Be Used By Anyone At Any Time and Anywhere
In furtherance to the point above, plastic rinks may be used in any place. It does not matter what the weather or climate condition of the place is. Even countries with warm and tropical climates may have them installed. This means that you can skate in any country you so wish and it is accessible to everyone. Moreover, it is not only people from places that experience winter can participate. It is useful for breeding friendship and connection with other people everywhere.
It Is Good for the Environment
The fact that real ice requires a large amount of water, as well as electricity, means that it impacts the environment. It requires a lot of resources in natural, human and financial terms. Electricity needs to be produced and supplied and water needs to be pumped. Besides, the water still needs to be refrigerated to make new ice layers often. Without these, the ice will melt and will not be smooth enough for use.
Furthermore, based on a University of McGill study, winter as a season is dwindling. That is, the number of days that people experience winter has reduced. By being more environmentally friendly and cautious, this can be avoided.
Pretend ice helps to take care of this. You do not need to use a lot of water, electricity and other resources that impacts the environment. However, you can still enjoy your winter sports. In addition to this, synthetic rinks are made of materials that are recyclable. They are also made to be environmentally friendly.
It Helps You to Keep In Shape
Imagine as an athlete on ice, you have to wait a full year or so to lace up your skates or get on the rink. You most likely would have lost form or lose interest in the sport altogether. Even if you have found a way to keep yourself fit, getting motivated can be tough. As you are getting into the thick of things and enjoying yourself, winter is done again leaving you frustrated. However, with a synthetic rink, you can stay fit and motivated all year round.
It is Customizable
Another thing with a synthetic ice rink is that it is customizable. It can be made into different sizes, colors and shapes, or in any way you desire. You can also determine its thickness.
Challenges of Synthetic Ice
As much as fake rinks have their advantages, it also has a few challenges. It may look similar to the real one but so far, it has not been able to perfectly match its properties. For this reason, it may require more effort to skate. Depending on how you look at it, this can be a positive or a negative thing.
Additionally, if the quality of the synthetic ice is low, it will cause a lot of drag. This will lead to a poor skating experience. This makes it difficult to glide in such conditions. Quality rinks make use of technology that aids smooth gliding but this comes at an extra cost.
Secondly, pretend rinks wear down the skate blades very quickly. This means the blades have to be re-sharpened more frequently. Thirdly, depending on the material used, synthetic rinks may produce a lot of abrasions and shavings. This means that the surface has to be cleaned often. Extruded sheet is especially guilty of this.
Materials like sinter-pressed are much better in this regard. It has better resistance to abrasion which makes the shavings greatly reduced. With sinter-pressed, there is less need for cleaning and the rink looks more appealing.
Synthetic rinks were created to break the bounds and limitations that come with natural ones. The best part of this is that it can be used at any time of the year and in any place. Whether it is hot or cold, it does not matter.
It is also environmentally friendly, costs less and quite easy to install and maintain. While it has its challenges, its advantages far outweigh them. More so, you do not have to wait till winter to skate or play ice hockey.