For about as long as I’ve been at The Record (28 years) the compressor used to maintain the ice at the Oak Park Ice Arena had been ailing. The interior temperature of the arena was literally kept at freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) so that the rink’s machinery wouldn’t be over taxed. But in late April the compressor finally gave up the ghost and broke down.
For me the ice-box coldness of the arena was always a summertime treat. If I needed relief from triple-digit temperatures, all I had to do was to look for pictures of people skating on the ice.
In truth, it was a little too cold for me to stay in the arena for any length of time. Most of the people skating there were prepared for the cold and would be dressed in thick coats with wool hats and gloves. You could see your breath condense in the air in front of you. I usually would be just in shirtsleeves (it would be really out outside, afterall) and once cooled down I could only stand it for about 5 to 10 minutes before my mind would turn to thoughts of hypothermia.
I’d usually find a quick shot before I froze solid and then left the arena. The summer’s heat would quickly thaw me out and feeling would return to my extremities.
On July 15, I covered the reopening of the Oak Park Ice Arena. After several months and $65,000 worth of repairs, the compressor was now supposedly as good as new. I wondered if there would be the need to keep temperature at the arena at near-arctic levels. I stepped out onto the ice and it was still very cool, but it lacked the frosty bite of previous years. I took a glance at thermometer mounted inside the rink. It read an even 45-degrees. So the arena has gone from freezer-cold to refrigerator-cool.