Mike Mulhall has a diverse background.
He’s worked in construction. He’s also had a couple of stints in information technology (IT).
There’s one job Mulhall never imagined he’d get involved with: building and running an ice rink, especially living in the nontraditional hockey market of Indian Trail, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte.
But here he is 11 years after the Extreme Ice Center was built, still running the rink as smooth as can be.
Mulhall struck up the idea of building a rink when a friend was moving to North Carolina and was looking for a place where his daughter could skate. All that was available was a single sheet rink on the other side of town and a second rink in a mall in Charlotte. That was it.
“One day he just said, ‘Why don’t we do this?’” Mulhall recalled. “And I started laughing because I had never had the intention of getting into the ice rink business.”
There was no looking back after that.
Mulhall has learned a great deal in the decade he’s been in the business. At the start, he learned on the fly.
“It’s a tough business, but there are a lot of people that are passionate about the business,” Mulhall said. “There’s a lot of satisfaction looking at the kids’ faces and seeing the evolvement and the progression that they make.”
With Mulhall’s background of varied jobs, it’s certainly been advantageous.
“It comes in pretty handy in the rink business, having varied knowledge of different things,” Mulhall said. “We put in all the computer systems and infrastructure of the building, we did it all ourselves. We pulled all the pipe. We were the construction supervisors on site, making sure everything got coordinated.”
Mulhall, who is the director of operations at the Extreme Ice Center, knows all the ins and outs of the rink that was completed in August 2006. Helping draw up the plans and seeing the rink be built piece by piece from the ground up helps Mulhall on a daily basis.
“Just knowing the little things that were done as the building was being constructed and understanding how it was put together, especially when it gets down to normal maintenance or repairs,” Mulhall said. “It comes in very handy to know, oh yeah, we did this and this why and how to fix it.”
As a jack-of-all-trades with the ice center, there really isn’t a typical day for Mulhall. If something at the rink needs fixing, Mulhall can generally take care of it. If there’s a need for a new employee, Mulhall leads the process.
“It’s all over the map, because every day’s different,” Mulhall said. “But that’s the beauty of the rink business, there’s something different every day. It doesn’t matter what’s happening.”
Mulhall is usually in the office by 8 a.m. and leaves around 7 to 8 p.m. on weekdays. Depending on if the rink is hosting an event or tournament over the weekend, he might be spending part of his Saturday and Sunday at his home away from home.
“Obviously, it’s a ton of work and I do very little when it gets down to it,” Mulhall said. “It’s our staff that does the bulk and carries the load. We’ve got a great staff.”
During hockey season, Mulhall carries about 50 employees, eight of whom are full-time year-round.
For the most part, the people who started at the rink in 2006 still work there. Mulhall’s current snack bar manager was actually one of the guys who pulled pipe during the rink’s construction.
“In general, you’re all kind of pulling for the same thing and going the same direction, it makes it a lot easier than trying to bring people in that don’t really understand,” Mulhall said. “So, having people that were there from Day 1 that were involved with some of the planning but also the construction, they’re still around. It’s amazing.”
The Extreme Ice Center — which is 90,000 square feet with two NHL-sized sheets of ice and a small studio rink — features a tavern upstairs, a U.S. Performance Center, snack bar, pro shop and pilates studio. It is frequently the home of the U.S. National Sled Team and the Development Sled Team which trains at the location a couple times a year in preparation for international events. The rink also brings in USA Hockey’s Southeastern District Player Development Camp every year and frequently hosts USA Hockey National Championship events, including April 2018.
“We stay busy with those kind of events,” Mulhall said.
Mulhall, 56, isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“I don’t like to do the same thing every day and that’s been my mantra my whole life,” he said. “I have a lot of interest in a lot of different things, whether it’s IT, whether it’s construction, whether it’s an ice rink, whether it’s hockey. They all have tie-ins and it’s nice to dabble in all of it.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.