Skip to content

Let the magic begin: Turning Mosaic Place into the largest curling arena in Saskatchewan

Preparations well underway as 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts set to begin Friday
When the final horn blew to signify the end of the Western Hockey League contest between the Moose Jaw Warriors and Saskatoon Blades on Saturday night, a small army of volunteers waited in the bowels of the arena to get to work.

Because in 36 hours – yes, only a day and a half – Mosaic Place was set to become the largest curling arena in Saskatchewan.

Preparations for the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women’s curling championship began shortly after the ice resurfacing machines finished their job around 10 p.m. on Saturday, with legendary Curling Canada icemaker Dave Merklinger overseeing the proceedings.

“It’s quite the process, the biggest problem was getting the compressors to work like we want them to work,” Merklinger said early Sunday afternoon while waiting for a fresh coat of sealant to dry. “They work fine, but we just need to have it a little colder to do this. So we got that handled, we flooded it last night and now we have the paint down, by the end of the night the circles will be on and it’ll start looking like a curling rink.”

The Mosaic Place transformation began earlier in the weekend when flooring was laid down in the Moose Jaw Ford Curling Centre, which will act as the home of the HeartStop Lounge throughout the week of festivities.

Work on the arena proper started with removing the glass and raising the end-board nets, followed by the ice being shaved down to about 3/4s of an inch in order to create as smooth a surface as possible. That was followed by a heavy levelling flood around 1 a.m. on Sunday, after which workers returned in the morning to begin painting the ice white and properly sealing the surface.

Once that had dried, the rings were cut into the ice and painted, along with the first set of Scotties logos and other major work. The fine details were set to be started on later that evening, followed by laying down the foam bumpers and wood surrounding the perimeter and other basic preparation work.

“By Monday night, you won’t even recognize this as a hockey rink,” Merklinger said with a chuckle.

A veteran of “40 or 50” domestic and international curling championships through his career, Merklinger has plenty of experience putting ice into hockey arenas. He says the key to success and timely completion is a solid team around him, something he has little worry about this time around.

Scotties prep paintingCanadian icemaking legend Dave Merklinger (left) and Regina Highland icemaker Darren Gress work on painting the black outline of the rings on Sunday evening.

“There’s always a good crew of guys here, there are some experienced icemakers who will be helping us out, and that’s a bonus when you have guys who know what they’re doing,” Merklinger said. “There have been lots of events in Saskatchewan, so the guys have been around.”

The basic installation will be completed in time for Tuesday, when the TSN television crew arrive to begin their set-up.

Once the ice is in, Merklinger and his crew will switch to maintenance mode, ready to deal with anything that comes up that could affect the quality of play.

“Then it’s just preparing and manicuring each sheet,” he said. “We do the scraping and shaping of the ice, pebbling, nipping, all these things we usually do to help make the girls look good.”

Once everything is set and complete, members of the Original 16 CashLeague will play a test game on the ice, with that contest slated for Wednesday evening or Thursday afternoon, depending on the timing.

The first practices for the 17 rinks will begin Friday morning, and the Wild Card game between Canadian curling legend Jennifer Jones and 2019-20 CTRS points leader Tracy Fleury will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

That contest is completely free for fans to attend, with donations collected at the door in support of local youth curling.

The first draw takes place on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., with action running through until the championship final on Sunday, Feb, 23.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks