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
Mike Collins November 29, 2011
Thanks for this story. I always wondered how that transformation of the Kohl Center happened. It would make a great time-lapse video.
Mike Collins, Professor, UW-Madison
Mike Grasmick November 29, 2011
Thank you for your excellent report with pictures on the transformation of Bball to Hockey at the Kohl Center. The details of how this is completed have perplexed me for years.
Now I can fully appreciate the required 120 man hours required to remove the floor, remove chairs, and change the elevation of north and south seating stands.
Michael Grasmick. ’84
Jodi Roberts January 18, 2015
I’ve always wondered how this process was completed. I assumed it was more like flipping a switch and was surprised to learn that it is a manual labor extensive process.