If you’ve ever taken a stride on an indoor sheet of ice, you immediately know the difference between a good sheet and a bad sheet.
And a bad sheet of ice is unacceptable to Kyle Gillespie, president at Rink-Tec.
Rink-Tec, an expert ice rink contractor able to service any refrigeration system and determine the best and most cost-efficient options to existing rinks and new ice rink construction, has been in Gillespie’s family since the 1980s. Since then it has grown to service facilities across North America, earning a reputation as one of the best (so naturally we at HTG Architects teamed up with them for numerous projects).
We caught up with Gillespie to talk all things ice—including what goes best in your drink.
HTG Architects: How did Rink-Tec get its start?
Kyle Gillespie: My dad decided to get into the hockey business in 1979, basically based on selling somebody some equipment. (Rink-Tec) started in our house in Thunder Bay, Ontario and in 1989 he opened a branch office in Roseville, Minnesota. I worked summers during high school and college and started taking things over in 1996 in our U.S. office. I took over the business operations, bidding and became the sole owner of the company in 2000.
HTG: So what’s a day-to-day look like for you?
Gillespie: Every day basically involves running the business side of things, but also managing projects, as well as managing our service department that operates in lots of different states like: Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and as far away as Florida and Wyoming.
I’m involved in every single project, be it White Bear Lake Sports Center or Augsburg College retro-fit and replacement, to the arena we’re building for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in California. I’m involved in logistics and manpower and ordering the proper materials, overseeing the different departments, refrigeration, you name it.
HTG: So basically, you’re the guy?
Gillespie: (Laughs) I’m a very hands-on owner.
HTG: So it begs to be asked: were you a hockey player growing up then?
Gillespie: I played a little bit of hockey as a kid but I was actually a curler in my high school years.
HTG: It must be fun to see curling gaining so much recognition and growing worldwide.
Gillespie: It is good to see it grow. It grows every Winter Olympic year. We’ve done a lot of curling clubs in Minnesota and Wisconsin and it continues to grow. It’s the same as refrigeration for a hockey rink, just different sizes and dimensions.
HTG: What are some of the challenges you face in your line of work?
Gillespie: The biggest challenge is making sure the buildings are built properly; with the proper value of insulation and also that their dehumidification and air intake is sized properly.
We can make ice anywhere with a roof and a building but having proper insulation and having proper air handling equipment and dehumidification is the key ingredient to the success of the system and a quality building, and quality ice surface
HTG: Speaking of having those buildings and roofs, talking about your relationship with us.
Gillespie: We did our first project together in Prior Lake, the Dakotah! Sport and Fitness in 1994, followed by the double rink in Vadnais Heights (Vadnais Heights Sports Center), and throughout other projects it’s been great teamwork. With HTG’s strong architectural skills and my refrigeration skill, we have created, designed and built some awesome state-of-the-art facilities. Our latest endeavor was our second sheet added in Clearwater, Florida, outside of Tampa Bay.
HTG: You’re an ice expert so we have to know: crushed or cubed in a drink of choice?
Gillespie: (Laughs) It depends on the drink. Cubed ice when you’re talking about Crown Royal, but crushed ice if you’re having a margarita.
HTG: Favorite facility (whether you were a part of it or not)?
Gillespie: The Minnesota Wild practice facility (TRIA), and we built it. It’s amazing. It’s on the fifth floor of a building in downtown St. Paul.
The second most amazing facility, and it was difficult and a major accomplishment is the Maple Grove Ice Trail. It’s basically a refrigerated ice trail system that has eight different refrigeration zones and almost 90,000 feet of ice. It’s an amazing park and an amazing piece of workmanship.
HTG: Final piece of advice for those interested in getting in to the refrigeration business?
Gillespie: Yeah—don’t (Laughs). Be careful. There’s a lot of pitfalls. There’s lots of codes and requirements, you need to know what you’re doing. You don’t just need to know about refrigeration. You need to know a lot about business, marketing and be sure to always take care of the customer first.