Ten Fun Facts About Ice Skating at Reston Town Center

Ice skating is back at Reston Town Center! The ice rink opens each year on November 1st and operates until March. It’s the centerpiece of the winter season at Reston Town Center. But how much do you really know about the ice rink?

A reader suggested that we explain how the rink can operate when the temperatures are above freezing. What a great idea – I’ve often walked past the rink in mild weather and wondered the same thing. The rink can operate even when temperatures are as high as 70! How does that work?


To find the answer to this question and more, I spoke with Marissa Marwell, the general manager of the Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion. She is a ten-year veteran with Rink Management Services Corporation, and this is her sixth season managing the rink at the Town Center. Marissa is also a lifelong figure skater – she has been skating since she was 18 months old. I really enjoyed chatting with her; she clearly knows the ice skating industry, and she had tons of information to share about the Reston Town Center rink and ice skating in general. Here are a few of her fun facts.

1. The rink is cooled by a chiller system that is hidden under the Pavilion all year round.

When you’re enjoying a summer concert in the Pavilion, you are sitting on top of a hidden chiller unit. Under the concrete slab floor of the Pavilion is a series of pipes that send very cold fluid just under the surface. A refrigeration system chills the liquid that runs though the pipes, which cools the floor to 4-5 degrees Fahrenheit. This chilled floor will freeze water to create the ice for skating. Even when the air temperature is warm, the ground is always freezing cold.

To keep the pipes from freezing at such low temperatures, glycol is used as an antifreeze. Because glycol’s freezing point is lower than that of water, it can get much colder than water and remain in liquid format.


Construction of ice rink. Photos provided by Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion.

2. The ice sits directly on the Pavilion floor.

There is no separate floor added to the Pavilion to create the rink. A surrounding wall, called a dasher board, is constructed around the perimeter of the rink. The dasher board is secure enough that it contains the water that is poured inside.

3. The white base under the ice is paint.

The rink looks so pretty on a winter day, with a snow-white floor of ice. That white base is actually a painted layer of ice, created to reflect sunlight and minimize melting. Yes, they paint directly onto the ice! If the rink had a darker color, it would absorb sunlight and warm the ice.


4. The first layers of ice are created by people who spray mist for hours.

The ice-making process begins not with a flood of water, but with a light spray of mist. Hard-working and patient staff members spend hours spraying this light mist, until there is a layer of ice 1/4 inch thick.

That first layer of ice is painted white. When the paint is complete and dry, they do another long round of misting on top of the painted layer. When they have created another 1/4 inch of ice, the paint is sealed in.

5. The final, thickest layer of ice is created by the Zamboni.

After the first two layers are completed, the Zamboni floods the rink with water to create the top layer of ice. The Zamboni can hold up to 160 gallons of water at a time , which is poured onto the rink until the ice is 1.5-2 inches thick.

Reston Town Center Zamboni

6. Zamboni is a brand name – the proper term is “ice resurfacer,” and people can get a little touchy about that if you get it wrong. 

An ice resurfacer is a machine that uses a blade to shave off rough ice while spraying water to create a smooth surface. This machine was invented by Frank Zamboni, and the Zamboni Company continues to produce them. A popular competing brand is Olympia, which creates similar machines used by many rinks. For example, the Washington Capitals use Olympias on their rink. Apparently people can be very loyal to their preferred brand of resurfacer! If you talk to people who use an Olympia, but you refer to it as a “Zamboni,” you might find that they get irritated by your error.

It’s ok to say “Zamboni” at the Reston Town Center Skating Pavilion, though. That’s the kind of ice resurfacer they use.

7. The water sprayed by the Zamboni is warm. 

Warm water will make ice that has fewer air bubbles than ice made by cold water. When there are fewer bubbles, the ice is more solid and less fragile.

Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion

8. The glass roof of the Reston Town Center Pavilion intensifies the warmth of direct sunlight.

When it comes to melting ice, sunlight is more of a problem than air temperature. The glass roof at the Town Center acts similar to a magnifying glass, and exacerbates the effect! They keep the ice thick enough that if some of it melts on the surface, there is still a safe layer of ice remaining.

9. The stability of your ice skates depends on proper lacing.

Many people do not lace their skates securely enough around their ankles. The rink staff is always available to help you adjust your skates. If a staff member tells you that your skate should be tied differently, take that advice and let him or her help you. Lots of people don’t even realize that their skates need adjustment.


10. Rental skates are available in a variety of sizes and styles.

Unlike many ice rinks, Reston Town Center offers rentals of both figure skates and hockey skates. You can choose whichever style you prefer, but beginners often learn better with figure skates. Sizes are available as small as toddler size 7, so even young children can join in the fun. It’s recommended that you bring your young children’s bicycle helmets as they learn to skate. Helmets are also available to rent, on a first-come, first-served basis. Bring out the whole family and start a new winter tradition!

The Reston Town Center Skating Pavilion is located at 1818 Discovery Street, Reston, VA 20190.

Admission Rates:
Adults – $10.00
Children under 12 – $9.00
Senior citizens (55 & up) – $9.00
Skate rentals (figure & hockey) – $5.00
Season pass – individual – $195.00
Season pass – family of 4 – $395.00
Discount card (10 admissions) – $85.00
Socks/Gloves – $4.00

Hours of Operation:
Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm
Monday: 11 am – 7 pm
Tuesday: 11 am – 7 pm
Wednesday: 11 am – 10 pm
Thursday: 11 am – 10 pm
Friday: 11 am – 11 pm
Saturday: 11 am – 11 pm

Skate Events
Rock ‘n’ Skate, Fridays, 8 am – 10 pm
Cartoon Skate, Saturdays, 11 am – 1 pm

Character Counts fundraiser at the Reston Town Center ice rink:

Head to the rink this Wednesday and Thursday, November 5-6, 2014! To celebrate its grand reopening every year, the Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion hosts a fundraiser for Character Counts.

Character Counts is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan, character education initiative designed to help youngsters and adults develop and practice the basics of good character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. The Character Counts Reston Coalition assists this effort by providing leadership, coordination, and resources to promote character development throughout the community.

On Wednesday, November 5 and Thursday, November 6, Character Counts will receive 50% of ice skating admission fees. By ice skating on these two days, you can support their work with Ethics Day at South Lakes High School in November, Reston Kids Triathlon, the Cornerstones Best of Reston event, and other charitable initiatives to support character-building for students in the community. All are encouraged to come out and skate, rain or shine, to support this worthy cause.

For more information about things to do in Reston, refer to our list of November events. We post monthly events on the first day of each month, so stay tuned for lots more.


  • Emory Miles

    Why is it so expensive? $19 (with our own skates) to take a 4 year ice skating is a little outrageous. The fun factor of being able to skate outdoors is a plus but it’s much cheaper to go to Ashburn Ice House, Fairfax Ice Arena, or Skatequest and pay just $6-8. Please consider offering ‘under 5 free’ or offering coupons now and then.