The Ice Rink Cometh
There’s a lot of muscle behind the magic that transforms the Kohl Center from a basketball arena to a hockey venue.
When the Wisconsin men’s or women’s hockey team skates onto the ice at the Kohl Center, they’re just picking up where another team left off.
As the primary playing facility for four Badger varsity sports (men’s and women’s basketball and hockey), the center is a beehive of activity from October through March. Compared to many campus sports venues, switching from one event to another at the Kohl Center is more complicated and time-consuming. It takes several dozen workers to transform the facility from a basketball court to a hockey rink — and back again.
Opened in 1998 and named for Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl ’56, who donated $25 million to the project, the center’s two overhanging balconies guarantee that fans have excellent sight lines for watching both basketball and hockey action.
After a football game or tennis match, Camp Randall Stadium and Nielsen Tennis Stadium need only a routine cleaning and trash collection and they’re ready to go. The Kohl Center conversion, on the other hand, takes about three hours and a forty-person crew. And it isn’t a once-and-done situation: the ritual happens forty-five to fifty times per playing season.
Apparently practice makes perfect. Dan Wyatt, the Kohl Center’s building and grounds superintendent, says that everything runs pretty smoothly, as long as enough time is scheduled between games so the workers aren’t scrambling to finish.
“I’ve been doing it for nine years, and a lot of the people have been with me for the past eight or nine years,” he says. “As long as everybody stays in the routine and does everything in the proper order, it’s not too bad.”
So far, they have a perfect record: the conversion process has never delayed the start of a game.
From wood to ice …
… and back
Published in the Winter 2011 issue