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Frozen Fairgrounds: How Del Mar And Other Ice Rinks Keep Cool In Sunny San Diego

Inside the Del Mar Arena there is a smaller rink for public skate (left) and ...

Credit: Matt Hoffman/KPBS

Above: Inside the Del Mar Arena there is a smaller rink for public skate (left) and a larger one meant for tournaments (right), Dec. 15, 2017.

UPDATE: 8:25 A.M., Dec. 18, 2017

The Del Mar Fairgrounds is the latest spot in San Diego County where you can ice skate outside.

There are now two rinks at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, a smaller one for public skate, and a larger one, which creators said is the biggest outdoor rink ever in San Diego.

"It’s going to be the first time we have an NHL hockey rink," said Rich Cubin, owner and CEO at Golden State Hockey Rush, who is putting on the event. "By that, referencing the size of the rink. It’s 200 feet long by 85 feet wide."

The rink was scheduled to open on Friday, but a glitch in the rink's cooling system delayed the opening until Sunday.

"A 400 ton chiller system," Cubin said is what freezes the ice. "So that’s basically 200 residential air conditioners."

Cubin said he specializes in making outdoor rinks. He has helped create rinks for the NHL's Winter Classic. Cubin said San Diego's weather is challenging, calling it "almost a desert climate."

"The desert part is actually favorable because of the low humidity, so that will make really good ice conditions," he said. "But when we do something on this level, this magnitude, I’ve been through way many other situations where Mother Nature wins.”

Before they could look at ice quality, they had to actually freeze the water. To do this, they are using a large diesel generator outside the rink. Cubin said there was not enough power at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to operate the cooling system.

Even though these rinks in Del Mar are technically outside, the layout of the Del Mar Arena means ice will not be getting direct sunlight.

“If you just had an uncovered ice rink, you basically have two different environments: you have your daytime ice and your nighttime ice," Cubin said. "Here we’ll have a warmer ambient temperature during the day, but the ice conditions will be the same during the day that they are at night.”

Cubin said in general, outdoor rinks exposed to elements are not perfect.

"When you’re public skating if you skate through puddles, you know I hear people say the ice is slippery" he said. "That’s the most ridiculous comment I’ve ever heard in my life. Of course, I hope it is."

Frozen Fairgrounds is open daily through December 31st. Tickets range from $10-$25 dollars per person.

Frozen Fairgrounds in Del Mar joins the Hotel Del Coronado and Liberty Station who operate their own rinks. But how do you keep water frozen when it’s nearly 80 degrees outside?

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story indicated that Frozen Fairgrounds opened on Saturday morning due to refrigeration problems. According to event organizers the opening was delayed another day until Sunday due to "unforeseen refrigeration conditions."

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