Corporán, 51 years old, handles the complicated “Zamboni” brand machine, manufactured by the specialized company Sport Ice.
Employed by “Patina Restaurant Group” where he works for 24 years, Corporán is responsible for ensuring that the ice on the nearly 100-year-old track, which opens for the season starting on October 8, is smooth and free of imperfections. for the thousands of tourists and New Yorkers who are going to skate there.
During the summer, Corporán has multiple roles in the restaurant “Summer Garden & Bar”, but it is the winter that he looks forward to, to demonstrate his skills.
“Every year, I get very excited,” said the Dominican.
Corporán, who lives in Upper Manhattan and emigrated from the Dominican Republic, found work through his father, who also worked at the Rockefeller Center.
When he was 18 years old, when he spoke very limited English, Corporán began working as a doorman in the open air, cleaning, sweeping, shoveling snow and carrying out general maintenance tasks, but he set his sights higher.
“I started to learn to skate and I tried to learn everything,” says the Dominican.
Five years later, he became the one everyone now knows as “El Chico Zamboni” because of the brand of the machine. In addition to clearing the ice, Corporán also sharpens roller blades, supervises the control room and acts as a switchman when there is not enough personnel, detects imperfections and fixes them immediately.
Take the “Zamboni” on the ice between each skating session. Scrape the loose ice (snow), spray a layer of water to create new ice and then soften everything, in 30 minutes.
Your work becomes more challenging when you are outdoors in constantly changing weather conditions, and failures can occur. The most recent problem occurred during the cold period of the last holiday season. Due to the high traffic on the runway, the ice had received many hits and the surface was full of chips.
As a result of the accumulation, Corporán and his machine stagnated. He could not advance or retreat, while the Zamboni began to smoke and overheat.
“I can solve most problems, so I knew right away what I had to do,” says Corporán. “There was too much snow on the blade, so I put the blade up a bit, and then I continued.”
Corporán’s work may seem unusual, but there is a need for machine handlers throughout the United States. According to Jeff Theiler, operations director of the Ice Skating Association of the United States, there are 1,545 tracks in the United States, and each has at least two trainers.
“The biggest tracks with more than two layers of ice would have several controllers,” he says. “A couple of tracks in the country have eight or more.”
The approximately 5,000 drivers earn at least the minimum wage, but there are numerous factors that influence salaries, from location and experience to if they have taken courses and have certifications, such as ice technician. That requires three technical courses and a total of 28 hours of classes and practical classes followed by an exam. Successful candidates are also recertified every five years.
As Corporán can attest, there is often more at work than just conducting overhauls. When it does not smooth the ice, Corporán skates keeping his eagle eye on the guests of the track. In fact, he is known as “Superman” by his colleagues for his uncanny ability to feel an ice skating guest in distress.
“You can spot a child who is about to fall,” says Tanja Yokum, director of public relations and marketing for “Patina Restaurant Group.”
“He will reach them in a second and pick them up as they fall in. He will see some people who are about to fall, and he is by his side,” Yokum added.
Olympic skaters can also visit the track in the early hours of the morning. Often, they want to practice their routines, and Corporán helps to set the music.
Corporán has plans to move forward. “We never know what will happen in the future, but at this moment, this is my priority,” he said.