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OLYMPIC HISTORY: Painting ice at the Olympic Arena

November 17, 2016
By ALISON HAAS - Lake Placid Olympic Museum , Lake Placid News

The 1932 Olympic Arena in its heyday, featured elaborate shows with skaters gliding over ornately painted ice.

Finding the history behind this amazing artistry has been a difficult one for staff as we have had a hard time finding out who was assigned this labor intensive task back then and what they did to create the intricate designs lying below the ice's surface.

Museum staff spoke to Dan Wood, Department Supervisor of Ice and Rink Maintenance at the Olympic Center here in Lake Placid to see if he could provide any clues as to how this was done half a century ago. With over 30 years of experience installing ice at Olympic venues, Dan along with his fellow coworker's suspect that those that came before them had similar methods to the ones they use today.

Article Photos

Here is a scene from a 1932 Olympic Arena ice show from the middle of the 20th century.
(Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum)

At the start of the fall and winter skating season, staff prepares the 1932 Olympic Arena by cleaning the floor and turning on the refrigeration. Once the temperature is right, they begin the ice making process. Using garden hoses, they start to create thin layers of ice, letting each layer of ice freeze before making the next sheet. After about a 1/2 inch of ice is layered, a base coat of white paint is sprayed on. This gets sealed in with yet another sheet of ice and the appropriate markings are measured and painted on ensuring that they follow the appropriate sport regulation and rules. At the same time, any logos or artwork that is needed is applied.

Wood suspects that when the workers of the 1930s to the 1960s artistically painted their designs that they used a stencil method along with a technique similar to paper mache, but may have painted much by hand.

Today when the Olympic Center receives a request to have a logo applied, they often reach out to a Canadian based company, Jet Ice, that provides both products and services needed in ice making. They can provide the design layout along with color schemes, paint, and stencils.

Using stencils as their guide, staff dusts chalk over the stencil and once removed the outline of the logo remains and painting begins. The final layer of paint is sealed in with a coating of water and staff continues to gradually flood the rink with hoses until the ice is about 2 to 3 inches deep and ready for the Zamboni.

If a logo needs to be replaced with another mid-season, staff does not start the process all over again. With hot water, they can remove layers down to the paint surface, re-paint and freeze it to the depth needed to make an even ice surface. The ice becomes a balancing act that needs constant supervision and Dan Wood knows his ice.

To learn more about details of our Olympic venues, please visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum on Main Street. The Lake Placid Olympic Museum remains curious about the history behind the decorative ice shows of the 1932 Olympic Arena and welcome any members of the community to contact us if you can provide additional facts about these activities.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For more information about the museum, please visit



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