As Winter Study dawned, many Ephs looked forward to the College’s newest recreational asset – the “Adam Falk Rink for Kids Who Can’t Skate Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too,” perhaps better known as the Dodd Circle ice rink. The brainchild of Ben Gips ’19, College Council (CC) vice president for student affairs, the rink was meant to be a central gathering place on campus for students to enjoy the winter weather. However, Mother Nature had other plans in store. The recent unseasonable warmth combined with a number of other roadblocks has prevented the rink from opening. In spite of this, however, Gips and the rest of CC remain optimistic, seeing this past month as a valuable learning experience. They are hopeful that the rink will eventually fulfill its intended role as an enduring Winter Study tradition.
Before the weather was even a factor, Gips and his ice committee faced a number of construction snags. The team’s first hurdle was a Dig Safe check. Massachusetts law requires that, before starting any digging project (such as staking the rink’s boards into the ground), the site and plan must be approved by a Dig Safe check, which ensures the safety of buried utility lines. “There are gas and electrical lines that run right though that area, and they tend to be buried pretty shallowly near buildings,” Gips said. The ice rink committee was particularly determined to avoid any potentially devastating accidents, resulting in more than a week-long delay for the project to handle the matter prudently.
Once the stakes were in the ground, the committee ran into another problem: the slope of Dodd Circle. Although Gips and his team knew the area was slightly graded, they were unaware that it would pose a significant problem. “We … didn’t really see the extent of the slope until [the rink] was in the ground, so that caused another day or so of delays,” Gips said. The following weekend, the committee decided to remove a portion of the rink to help avoid the section of the circle with the greatest incline. “That was a very difficult task,” Gips said, who spent an entire Saturday with the committee removing and replacing stakes and boards.
Once the committee reduced the size of the rink and mitigated the effect of the slope as much as possible, the team filled the rink with water. After another minor incident involving spillage and some structural damage that delayed the project another few days, the rink was all ready to use as soon as the water turned into ice. “It’s been filled … and ready to go for about a week now,” Gips said. Yet with nighttime low temperatures barely getting below freezing, the actual ice of the ice rink has yet to manifest.
“We’re definitely disappointed in the weather,” Gips said. “But [we’re] still believing that we have a lot of winter in front of us, so if it’s not during Winter Study, hopefully [the ice] will freeze, we’ll get a nice cold spell, and it’ll be ready for people to use come early [spring] semester.”
The rest of CC shares in Gips’ optimism. “It has been obviously disappointing that what was supposed to be a really cold winter . . . didn’t end up happening,” Michael Rubel ’19, vice president for communications, said. “But we’re still confident that there’s no definitive end date.” The hope now is that February and March see colder temperatures, and that the rink can open on weekends later in the winter.
The ordeal of the past few weeks, though, was not in vain. “We’ve learned a lot from trying to do this,” Gips said. For one, the team realized that beginning the whole installation process before winter break would have allowed the rink to be filled during the first week of Winter Study, perhaps even resulting in its operation for a few of the colder days earlier in the month.
This Winter Study has also made apparent some of the fundamental issues with Dodd Circle as a location. “We’re going to have to do some real grading of that area, or we’re going to have to try to find a new area,” Gips said. The committee will be working closely with Facilities – which has also generously offered to store the disassembled rink in the off-season – to either find or create a suitable location.
With these lessons in mind, everyone involved is confident that the rink is here to stay. “This year we hit some difficulties, but this will be hopefully the hardest year that we ever have, and … in future years, this will be a snap to get going,” Rubel said.
And with such a dedicated and enthusiastic committee, the rink’s future indeed looks bright. “Our team [that] has been working on it so far has just been incredible,” Gips said. “They’ve really stepped up, a lot of them, well beyond what we’ve asked of them, going out there at all hours of the night, layering water on … really pretty great stuff.”