The downtown skating rink that has become Napa’s winter centerpiece is nearing completion, even as a rainstorm threatens to put its opening on hold.
At the site of the second annual Napa on Ice at Second and Coombs streets, a grayish white layer of ice on Thursday morning marked the base of what will be a 2-inch-thick, 70-by-90-foot surface.
Workers have been building the rink on a portion of a city parking lot since Monday, and expected to have the ice sheet ready by Friday morning — if expected rain in the North Bay holds off.
Rain could postpone the opening of the two-month Napa on Ice season to Saturday, according to Peter Mott, the Napa councilman supervising the rink’s construction as a private venture.
He expected the full ice surface to be completed before the storm’s expected arrival Thursday night, which he said should ensure its stability once the storm passes.
“As long as we have a seal on the ice, it’s OK,” Mott said as workers checked shelves in the wooden skate-rental hut and trod the unfinished ice sheet. “If it’s not sealed it would melt, but we’re confident we’ll get it done in time.”
The source of the possible delay is a weather pattern the National Weather Service says should bring rain to the Napa area after 4 a.m. Friday, then continue to produce showers into Saturday. In addition to an 80 percent chance of precipitation on Friday, winds are expected to reach 11-14 mph at Napa County Airport.
As the ice rink’s work crew awaited the storm, its immediate problem was the opposite — daytime conditions too sunny and balmy to pour much water onto the surface before dusk, for fear of melting the bottom layers instead.
After putting down a soil base and a bottom ice layer, the Napa on Ice crew plans to hose more water layers onto the rink for 15 hours, according to Chris Yenna, a worker at the rink site.
The compressed schedule would be par for the course for Yenna, who has worked on the ice surface since Monday.
“I had four hours’ sleep last night and got back here about 6:30, so I’d say I worked 20 hours” Wednesday, he said as a web of iced-over cooling pipes lay near his feet outside the boards. “But I’ve been doing ice rinks quite a few years now, so I feed off that.”
Work on Napa on Ice began Nov. 1 at the same site as the original event, which ran from November 2011 to January 2012. This year’s skate complex is 1,500 square feet larger than for the first season and includes a wooden platform, wheelchair-accessible ramp, and a rigid skate rental structure instead of the tents used for the original event.
The rink is scheduled to open daily through Jan. 13, then be dismantled by the end of January.
About 20,000 people visited the inaugural Napa on Ice, according to organizers, who attributed the turnout partly to an unusually dry winter with only one rain-related postponement.