There's nothing wrong with the climate-control system inside Rabobank Arena. Even so, anyone attending this weekend's professional bull-riding competition might want to bring a jacket or a sweater.
That's because beneath the 20 dump truck loads of dirt spread on the floor of the arena is a full hockey rink still covered with ice, ready for the Bakersfield Condors to return for practice on Tuesday.
The 9,000-seat building in downtown Bakersfield may be the most versatile building in town. When it's not being used as an ice rink or a dirt-covered monster-truck stadium, the Rabobank might be serving as a concert hall. Or a football field. Or a basketball arena.
"Most people I think get the impression that it's just hockey games and concerts," said Nick Wynne, the Rabobank's marketing manager. But, he added, "we're set up to do a number of things."
City Manager Alan Tandy said the arena's adaptability was a key design feature when it opened 20 years ago. The idea was to multiply the city's entertainment options, allowing everything from motocross to music shows.
"It is multi-use and was planned that way," he said by email.
Converting the building from one use to another is no simple chore. Wynne said it may take a team of 20 employees working most of the night to change it from basketball arena to a football stadium.
Building on ice
The 200-foot by 85-foot ice floor is the arena's foundation, literally and figuratively.
As a rink, the Rabobank hosts hockey games from late September to as late as June — and never during that whole time is the ice allowed to melt. The trade-off is that it's almost always cold inside, and sometimes the electric bill is through the roof.
Over a period of about four days in early fall, 10,000 gallons of water are brought in and frozen together with the paint to make the ice white. Other colors are used to create goal lines and faceoff spots. Mesh logos, including that of the Condors, are frozen under an inch and a half of ice.
When it's time for bull-riding, tarping is put down and a local farmer is contracted to haul in dirt. Together with the packing necessary to stabilize the dirt, the process that can take up to six hours.
Piecing together a court
Putting in a full basketball court takes two or three hours, Wynne said. Jigsaw puzzle-like pieces about two inches thick are brought in from a storage area inside the arena. They're laid on top of a bracing system that's another two inches deep.
The process for setting up a football arena inside the Rabobank is different. Wynne said artificial turf installed for games consists of two carpet-like rolls, each three inches thick.
Sports tape is used to hold down the corners, though the mats' weight is generally enough to hold everything down. The setup takes a little longer than the basketball court because field goals and netting must also be installed.
For concerts, any number of combinations is possible. Wynne said there is a variety of stage decking in storage. There are also choir risers and stage equipment ready to accommodate performers' preferences.
One conversion job in particular stands out in recent years, he said. That was in 2009, when in the middle of hockey season the arena hosted an ice racing event.
The competition consisted of dirtbikes equipped with spiked tires racing about the hockey rink. By the end of the excitement, Wynne said, the ice was thrashed.
It took several days and countless Zamboni trips to make the arena suitable for a hockey game. Wynne said the venue's staff was not as thrilled as the audience had been.
"We never say never," he said, "but it would be a very strange circumstance if we were to ever have ice racing again."