Steaming hot water will hit freezing cold concrete this week as workers begin making the first layers of ice for the Mansfield StarCenter’s two rinks.
The mist is sprayed hot to prevent air bubbles. Each layer is a fraction of an inch thick so the process will be repeated multiple times over three or four days. The final ice sheet will be less than 2 inches thick but could last for several years with proper Zamboni maintenance.
The tedious process is the final step before the 80,000-square-foot facility grand opening and ribbon cutting on Aug. 30. That weekend will kick off with a 40-team travel tournament that will feature the best youth teams from Texas and Oklahoma.
Spectators can watch the games for free in the bleachers or crowd right up at the glass to get close to the action.
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“We’ll have a bunch of fun stuff around that, too. We’ll have food trucks here, 7-Eleven will have their Slurpee truck and we’ll have games and prizes throughout the weekend for people,” said Damon Boettcher, vice president of the StarCenters. “Everybody’s invited to come out and there’s no admission.”
Expect some soft openings with public skate before that as the facility works out the kinks and trains its staff. The facility will have three to five full-time employees and while creating up to 50 new part-time jobs.
This will be the eighth StarCenter that the Dallas Stars have opened in North Texas. Combined, the facilities will be hosting 90 teams Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 with Mansfield’s new facility being the central showcase, Boettcher said.
Mansfield owns the $18.8 million facility and the Dallas Stars operate it. The StarCenter will be the new home ice for the Mansfield Tigers hockey team, and Boettcher said there in talks with several college teams that could play there, including Texas Christian University.
It will also host league tournaments, classes, clinics, curling and figure skating. There will also be public skate so everyone can strap on skates and enjoy the ice.
“Our big drive is to build hockey fans for life,” Boettcher said. “It’s a low impact sport like golf, it doesn’t hurt your joints. “When the Dallas Stars moved here 25 years ago there were 150 kids who played hockey officially. Now we’re over 5,000 in the area, which is great. We also have 5,000 men and women who play hockey.”
The public skate will cost about $10 an hour and get Texans comfortable with ice skating. The rink has more than 600 ice skates available for rent by the public.
“If we can keep that consistent, it’s super important because that’s what grows our business,” he said.
The ice rink is also flexible as it can be split in two with a curtain for team drills or boards can be put up to separate the rink into smaller quadrants for younger children.
Brian Lee, general manager for the Mansfield StarCenter, said they will also host broom ball games where people run around in shoes on the ice and use brooms with paddles on them to move the ball.
“It’s a big recreational sport for people who don’t know how to skate,” Lee said.
Opening a year late
The StarCenter was originally going to open a year ago but multiple changes were made that increased the cost by $3.6 million and delayed the opening for a year.
The Dallas Stars wanted a more efficient chiller system that recycles energy to make the ice and keep the building at a steady temperature.
“We would be one of the most advanced buildings right now in Texas,” Boettcher said. “There’s no air conditioners on the roof. There’s no heaters in here. There’s no natural gas. Everything is done by the ice plant. It’s all claimed and reused for our cooling of the system, cooling of the building during the summer and heating during the winter.”
The extra cost also included the addition of four community rooms that can be rented for birthday parties and other functions.
The use of Mansfield tax dollars to fund the StarCenter and the cost overruns sparked plenty of controversy in the May City Council election.
The latest on the Shops at Broad
The StarCenter will be the first business to open at the Shops at Broad mixed-use project but Academy Sports & Outdoors and At Home will follow close behind.
Both retailers are scheduled to open in September, said Joe Smolinski, deputy city manager. The main road leading to both shops will also be ready by then, he added.
There’s also renewed interest from other shops and restaurants that haven’t been announced, yet, said City Manager Clayton Chandler.
The controversial apartments are under review by city staff. A group of residents tried unsuccessfully to overturn the Shops at Broad zoning change because of the 300-plus apartment complex two years ago.
But not everything is on schedule.
Mansfield is widening East Broad Street from Cannon Drive to U.S. 287 to three lanes each direction along the front of the Shops at Broad. That project, already the bane of drivers, is now several months behind schedule, Smolinski said.
Starting Aug. 16, Mansfield will start fining the developer $1,000 a day for the first 10 days for not finishing the project on time. After that, the fine jumps to $2,000 a day until the project is finished.
The project hit another snag when some of the concrete wasn’t sloped properly for drainage runoffs. Mansfield inspectors noticed the problem and prompted the contractor to tear up the concrete and redo it.
When complete, traffic will be shifted to the new concrete so the other side can be redone.
“You’ll see a lot of relief. You’ll feel relief as you’re driving down that,” Smolinski said.