Far from the idealized frozen ponds of northern winters, today’s modern ice rinks consume a lot of energy to create and maintain their surfaces. This energy consumption creates an environmental burden, as well as a significant economic cost, limiting the recreational opportunities that rinks provide and restricting access to those who can afford it and in the right place.
Glice, a synthetic ice rink company, is here to solve these problems.
The adventure started from a lucky tour of canal surfing. “I was back in Switzerland after working with a tech start-up in Dallas, Texas, and I saw a TV show about inventors, and there was my now business partner, Toni Vera, who developed this product that looks like ice, looks like ice, but it was not ice,” says co-founder Viktor Meier.
The two combined Meier’s entrepreneurial spirit with Vera’s engineering savvy and launched Glice in 2012.
With a mission to create sustainable ice sports in a changing world, the Lucerne, Switzerland-based company has expanded globally, installing over 1,000 rinks in over 90 countries. “I really want to continue until 200 [countries]Meier says. “So we are left with a number of countries.”
Glice is a synthetic ice surface. “Basically, it’s a high-quality polymer with different additives, such as silicon, and it’s created with a special high-density pressing process,” says Meier. “The result is a surface with a very low coefficient of friction.” The surface does not degrade or damage with continued use and does not need to be maintained in any particular environment or temperature.
Another benefit of the synthetic material is that it is safer to use, eliminating the harsh knocks of a nasty spill. “I remember in my childhood, you know, a lot of my friends broke their bones skating, and anyone who fell knows how hard and tough an icy surface is,” Meier said. “But Glice absorbs shock, which greatly reduces the risk of injury.”
Many of their customers are owners looking for a solution for budding sports kids or hobbyists. But Glice also sells commercial rinks for a wide range of applications.
“We sell a ton of rinks to just the regular hockey family, and they can ice skate in the backyard or in their basement,” says Meier. “But we also carry out large-scale projects. We made a huge skating rink, the largest in the world at the time at over 45,000 square feet in Mexico City’s main plaza.
Glice installed ice rinks in the Maldives and on top of a towering skyscraper in Dubai, and on the waterfront in Brazil during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Ice rinks can be produced in any shape or size, including some new sports training applications. “We also do more than ordinary ice rinks,” says Meier. “For example, high-level hockey training centers, and a skate-mill, like a treadmill but with Glice.”
Glice even provides all the associated accessories needed for turnkey operation. “Suppose a community wants to have a Christmas rink, we ship the whole rink and also the whole company, along with the skates and equipment they need as well,” says Meier.
Glice home rinks start at around US$2,500, while commercial rinks, including maintenance and operating accessories, such as scoreboards, start at around US$100,000. By comparison, a Glice system built to NHL specifications costs about 20% of a standard refrigerated rink: US$685,000, or US$41 per square foot, compared to US$3.57 million, or US$210 per square foot. square.
WHAT IS THE GOOD?
Ice rinks are huge energy consumers. “When you put up a conventional ice rink, you need huge amounts of water, and you have to freeze it and maintain it, which consumes a lot of electricity,” says Meier. “So it’s a huge waste.”
Conventional NHL-sized rinks consume the energy equivalent of 1,500 average households as well as 22,200 gallons of water. Glice requires no energy or water, saving over 40 tonnes of CO2 per month.
“We recognize that even though the product saves a tremendous amount of energy, producing a Glice rink still costs energy,” says Meier. “Our rinks come in panels, and for every Glice panel we produce, we plant a tree that not only offsets the carbon emissions of production, but also our own electricity.”
Over 10,000 trees have been planted through Plant-for-the-Planet since the program launched, and combined with other company-wide initiatives, Glice is 100% carbon neutral.
Synthetic ice rinks also allow people from any location or climate to enjoy a form of entertainment and recreation that may not have been available before. “We are democratizing the world of ice sports,” says Meier. “Previously, only cold and northern rich countries could go ice skating. But with our technology, we can put an ice rink somewhere in the desert or on a beach. It is accessible to everyone. »
With energy consumption and water availability around the world under pressure due to various circumstances, including global warming, restrictions on rinks are already being considered or put in place. “For example, with the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, in Germany most ice rinks have been banned from operating this year because it’s such a waste of resources,” says Meier.
“Energy prices are rising and the political pressure to be carbon neutral is getting very strong all over the world, including in the United States, where the targets are now very ambitious,” says Meier. So the future of ice skating could very well be Glice skating.