A Skating Disco


The LED-illuminated ice rink at Canary Wharf in East London, UK – photo courtesy of Ice Rink Canary Wharf

I know, I know. Re-Surfacing is supposed to be about indoor ice arenas, not outdoor. But I’m putting the spotlight on the Canary Wharf ice rink at Canada Square Park in London, because what they’ve done this year is something many municipalities can only dream about doing with their outdoor rinks. This particular outdoor rink is called LuminoCity – and you can see from the image above exactly why it’s called that. It shines — absolutely sparkles — with 8 km. (5 miles) of LED lights under and above the ice, lighting the way and constantly changing patterns for the delight of the skaters. And, look up and see the lights are suspended from a clear roof, keeping the skaters dry when it rains and keeping that outdoor feeling intact. Yes, it was pricey – costing the owners somewhere in the neighbourhood of one point five million pounds, but my, oh, my, what a great in-ice experience!

Before I jump the details, I thought I should tell you a bit about Canary Wharf first, in case you haven’t heard of it. Canary Wharf is a major business district in East London, initially developed in the 1980s by a Canadian company called Olympia & York. The development was made in an effort to revitalize the area around the docks, which were no longer in use. Office towers began to blossom where dock workers once worked and warehouses bustled, making Canary Wharf  “home” to some of the most important global banks. The development is now owned by a consortium of investors, and includes high-end boutiques, restaurants and, of course, a wintertime skating rink, surrounded by skyscrapers.

To find out a bit more about their rink (and what goes on on a pond across the pond) I spoke to Lauren — who is an ice maker at the Ice Rink at Canary Wharf. Rather, (say that with a British accent, if you please) we sent emails back and forth, and this is what I learned:

The Lights

Since this is a seasonal rink, the LEDs that are in the ice are actually under the ice, strung at the same level as the pipes. They’re about 5-6 inches below the ice’s surface. All told, above and below the ice there are half a million tiny lights.

“We have to ensure the ice is thick enough at all times as we do not want anyone putting a blade through them and getting hurt. So, having them the same level as our pipes makes it a lot easier to judge the depth,” Lauren says.

“The dimensions of our rink are 24 meters by 45 meters (80×145 ft). Arena Ice supplied and built our rink with Aggreko supplying the chillers and the set up for that side. We run on glycol.” To learn more about how Aggreko was able to provide ice making equipment for a limited space, read this.


LEDs on the icefloor – image courtesy of Ice Rink Canary Wharf

The Equipment

WM 1700 Mini

The WM 1700 Mini at the Ice Rink Canary Wharf

To resurface the ice, they use a diesel-fuelled WM Mini 1700 which is an Italian-made resurfacer. (The “WM” in the name stands for “Willie Mulser”, a blacksmith by trade who also won an Italian Championship in motorsports.)

“We usually resurface at the start of the day and then in between every session, and also after the last session has finished. so that’s about 10-11 times daily,” Lauren tells me. Each session runs for an hour and costs about $20 USD for an hour’s worth of skating — including skates — during peak hours The rink is open from November to the end of February, closed only on Christmas day. 

I asked Lauren if they have lights beneath the resurfacer to co-ordinate with the lights under and above the ice.

“We do not have any lights on the resurfacer yet….. but I am currently looking into a way to install some. I need to make sure I have a waterproofed battery pack to go with it first. Hopefully this will take shape over the next couple of weeks.”

Since I don’t know if the British are as amazed as North Americans with the spectacle of someone driving an ice resurfacer, I had to find out:

“We do get an awful lot of attention during an ice resurface,” Lauren explains. “We don’t really get people cheering here, it is mainly little kids waving so I give them a beep of the horn and wave back!”

As for the see-thru roof, it too is a new addition to the 2016-17 edition of the Ice Rink Canary Wharf.

“The clear roof is amazing. it is supplied from a Belgian company called ‘Spantech.”