Pandemic creates opportunity for unique Calgary-made ice resurfacer

By Deb Matejicka, Global News Posted: Jan 29, 2021 10:17PM | Last Updated: Jan 29, 2021 10:21PM

Calgary-based Porta Ice Ltd. has seen an increase in demand for its mini ice resurfacing machine as more and more people turn to community and backyard rinks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 safety restrictions have made outdoor rinks very popular this winter, and that has created the perfect opportunity for a Calgary entrepreneur and his mini ice resurfacing machine.

“The pandemic has helped our business quite a bit,” Chris Yenna, Porta Ice Ltd owner and founder, said.

Yenna created the Ice NV, a mini ice resurfacing machine that runs off battery power and is similar — in size and use — to a riding lawnmower.

“There’s a lot of private rink owners (who) have reached out to us due to the fact they don’t have places to skate and they have an ice rink in their backyard and now it’s time to better their ice quality.”

Community rinks and those responsible for their maintenance have also been seeking out Yenna’s machine.

“They’re actually making the rinks bigger for separation, for people to separate and it’s been really good because now we have more ice to cut and keep it safer and a better more enjoyable time out in the outdoors.”

“The feedback that I get from volunteers is it just makes it more enjoyable to come out here on those late nights and those long, cold wintery, stormy days when they’re out here, snow blowing and cleaning the ice,” said Yenna. “They don’t have the bumps and all this debris that they once had before, it makes it nice and smooth.”

The current COVID-19 safety restrictions — and growing waitlists at community rinks — have made backyard rinks a popular hobby.

Paul Imperius said making a skating rink in the backyard of his Royal Oak home wasn’t so difficult.

“Well, the first day was all the hard work of the stakes and levelling,” said Imperius of having to prepare the area for the rink. “We pounded in stakes, and it was cold out and we got it all done and that was probably a full day of eight hours.”

After flooding the area with water, Imperius says Mother Nature took over and not long after, his partner’s two kids had a rink to skate on.

That was the easy part, Imperius says the most difficult part of having the rink is the maintenance and ensuring the kids have a safe surface to play on.

“That’s what you spend half an hour to 45 minutes every night trying to get it nice and smooth,” he said. “You can see at nighttime the cracks and the crevices and just fill them up with water and hopefully if it’s level then the water does the trick but it is more work.”

At a sale price of around $40,000, the Ice NV units aren’t cheap but since bringing them to market about two years ago, Yenna said sales continue to climb in both Calgary and across the country.

For some, that price tag may be too high but there’s no denying the Ice NV has the potential to make any ice rink the envy of the neighbourhood.

“You know, everybody in the neighbourhood wants to have the best ice so anything to give you that advantage would be awesome,” said Imperius. He added that he wasn’t ready for his own ice resurfacing machine yet but was already considering a more “elaborate” set up for next year’s rink.

By Deb Matejicka, Global News Posted: Jan 29, 2021 10:17PM | Last Updated: Jan 29, 2021 10:21PM

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