Eleven miles of underground pipe at James Brown Arena were activated Monday morning for the first time in nearly two years. Minor league hockey returns to Augusta this month, and the three-day process of making ice started with a drop in temperature.
"The ideal for hockey is 18 degrees (Fahrenheit) surface temperature," said Benn Breton, the owner of Rink Specialists. "That means you have to get the concrete down to 10 degrees."
The underground pipes were filled with saltwater to lower the concrete floor's temperature. Then Breton's three-man team, contracted by the arena, went to work transforming 17,000 square feet of concrete flooring into a hockey rink. More than 300 gallons of paint and up to an inch of ice will cover the floor when the job is completed later this week.
"It's nice to be able to see it," RiverHawks assistant general manager Ken Vezina said. "The whole process has been concept-only until now, and it's pretty exciting."
The RiverHawks, a Southern Professional Hockey League expansion team, will begin the regular season Oct. 22. Thirty minor leaguers are expected to report to Augusta on Sunday and begin a weeklong training camp in hopes of landing a spot on the opening-day roster.
Workouts will be open to the public free of charge, and the camp will wrap up with a pair of weekend exhibition games against Fayetteville. The Oct. 15 night scrimmage will be on the road, and the team will return home for the next night's game.
"We're ready for hockey," said Josh Small, the arena's director of event services. "We had a little bit of equipment we had to replace, but we've had everything taken care of."
Augusta lost its minor league hockey team when the Lynx folded in December 2008 after more than a decade of play in the ECHL.