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Acrylic Spectator Shielding Is Making A Comeback With Indoor Arenas

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Acrylic Spectator Shielding Is Making A Comeback With Indoor Arenas

The crash of the boards, the slap of the puck; sights and sounds that drive hockey fans wild and the only thing standing between them and a 90 mph hockey puck is spectator shielding. Indoor arena sports have a tendency to move fast and hard in a smaller game play area than outside stadiums. Sports like soccer, arena football, lacrosse and hockey are quick and exciting games. Much of the speed and excitement ends up crashing into the spectator shielding above dasher panels.

Arena spectator shielding has been a topic of much discussion over the last few years, involving coach and player complaints, clarity issues and impact resistance. A solution to these issues is taking hold with indoor arenas as they begin to make the switch from seamless glass to acrylic shielding systems. The reasons are to reduce player injury and complaints and ease facility changeovers.

Crashing the Boards

An argument being presented in many debates over spectator shielding systems is the rigidity of tempered glass versus that of acrylic shielding. Concerns looming throughout the hockey industry have many facilities looking at acrylic and many team officials requesting it. Acrylic is approximately 64 percent lighter than an equally sized glass panel. Acrylic is also 20-25 times more flexible than tempered glass. The flexibility of an acrylic shielding system is a major factor to consider when a player is impacting shields at accelerated speeds. Both the shielding and the player will absorb the force of the impact. Due to player and coaching staff complaints, some arenas have already made the switch to acrylic shielding.

The NHL requires the use of a 200 pound load to test the impact on its shielding systems. Computer models show that a 200 pound player skating at 15 mph will generate 63,553 psi of stress on tempered glass. The reaction force distributed back to the player is 54,820 pounds Under the same conditions, if the 200 pound player were to impact acrylic shielding, he would generate 15,555 psi of stress on the acrylic and only 20,720 pounds of reaction force would be redistributed back to the player. This three-fold reduction in reaction forces significantly reduces the effects of the impact and the possibility of injury. These numbers show why players are more likely to suffer head, neck or upper body injuries when impacting tempered glass instead of acrylic.

Some venues have found that replacing the large 4’ x 8’ glass panels located behind the goal, where most player-to- board contact occurs, makes a significant improvement in player comfort and event changeovers.

Feeling the Impact

When seamless glass systems were first installed in arenas, it was facility staff that first felt the “impact.” Seamless glass panels, although the same size as acrylic panels, weigh approximately 100 pounds more. The additional weight on the larger panels behind goals called for expensive slow moving lifts to perform arena changeovers. Additional facility labor costs are required to break down and set-up facility configurations from event to event.

The popularity and game frequency of indoor sports is at an all-time high, as lacrosse, soccer and arena football have captured the attention of the American public. With both soccer and lacrosse utilizing spectator shielding along with hockey, facilities are required to perform more changeovers per week, staffing for as many as 3 events a day. With the added frequency of these events, facility management began to notice the added changeover burden glass panels carried. In order to cope, some facilities, such as the First Union Center in Philadelphia, have implemented a hybrid shielding system where both acrylic and glass are used, whereby the larger panels behind the goal are made of acrylic. This has helped speed changeover time and has eliminated the need for specialty lifts, as two or more arena personnel can easily handle the large acrylic panels.

“We’re seeing more and more arenas making the switch to acrylic shielding especially in light of the recent developments in spe-cialty coated acrylic products,” commented John Korney, Commercial Development Manager Sheet Products, CYRO Industries. CYRO, based in Rockaway, NJ, has an acrylic product guaranteed to meet ASTM F 1703-96 for spectator shielding, ACRYLITE® RinkShield™ acrylic sheet.

Breaking Through

While shielding stiffness and player complaints remain a major issue, shielding impact strength has not been an issue because both glass and acrylic have proven to be effective, incurring a comparable amount of breakage. The fact to consider is that when glass panels break they shatter into tiny fragments as opposed to acrylic, which breaks into large pieces. It is not a common occurrence but if a panel breaks, acrylic facilitates faster clean up and replacement over glass panels. Two facility personnel could change panels in a timely fashion without the need of special lift equipment.

Seeing the Difference

Clarity is an important issue, predominantly with so many sporting events being televised and broadcast globally. Glass has long been thought to offer ideal optical conditions but in actuality acrylic offers better light transmission for improved optical clarity. Acrylic panels can also be specialty coated to resist scratches and puck marks to improve game viewing.

“Manufactured to ASTM specs for hockey arenas, RinkShield acrylic sheet holds up to puck and player impacts, provides softer impacts versus tempered glass, clear viewing for fans and easier, quicker changeover operations for facilities,” commented Korney.

While acrylic supported dasher systems absorb impact well, it has also been said that they provide louder and more exciting impact sounds for fans and spectators. As players wrestle for puck control against the boards, fans are able to hear the on-ice excitement better with acrylic dasher systems due to the shock absorbing movement of the system. Because of the impact absorption, movement impact volume is amplified and grabs fan attention, enhancing the level of excitement of the game. With NHL and player concerns regarding shielding and dasher systems, changeover benefits and lighter weight, acrylic shielding is making a comeback in arenas across the country.

For more information, regarding ACRYLITE® RinkShield™ acrylic sheet, contact Carmen Mammoliti, CYRO Industries, 100 Enterprise Drive, Rockaway, NJ 07866, 800-631-5384 / 973-442-6128, Fax: 973-442- 6117, Web:

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