Ice Rink Efficiency: The Proof is in the Pudding

Ice Rink Efficiency: The Proof is in the Pudding

Recently we were able to catch up with Steve Trepanier at the Rochester Ice Arena in Rochester, NH, who has managed the Arena for decades. The Rochester Ice Arena recently replaced their refrigeration system and this last season they replaced their 40 year old rink floor.

When we called to find out how the Rochester Ice Arena’s combination upgrade of refrigeration system and the cold floor had been performing – well, were we pleased by his reaction! Steve told us the combination of Emerald Environmental Technologies’ ice3 Cube Refrigeration System and the new cold floor designed and installed by Preferred Mechanical Services had resulted in a 20% reduction in utilities this past season!

An interview with Steve Trepanier

Arena Manager, Rochester Ice Arena in Rochester, NH

Our facility was built in 1974 – a single sheet ice arena primarily used from Sept. thru April for ice skating. The City of Rochester purchased the rink 1990 and has owned the rink since, the 40 year old floor, 15 year old dasher boards, and glass were due for replacement.

I have been at the Rochester Ice Arena for twenty years, and the Arena Manager for fifteen years. I oversee the complete operation of the Ice Arena from ice install, to programs, to scheduler of the facility. We have one full time employee and ten part time employees. Like most municipal/town rinks, our target customer base is the local youth hockey organization, High School teams, and adult hockey groups. The best part of my job is the daily interactions with our patrons throughout the season. They’re like family. There is something special about watching the kids that you built a relationship over the years, then come back with their own children, the hockey community is special in that way.

The Industry-Wide Ice Rink Challenge: Controlling the Bottom Line

For ice rinks, the biggest driver to stay open is the bottom line. It all comes down to saving on operation costs wherever possible. This means upgrading your rink facility to be as energy efficient as you can in order to help keep those cost down. This allows us to keep our pricing as consistent as possible over the years as these costs are typically passed down to the user groups.
We found two ways to cut costs substantially by upgrading our aged refrigeration system and floor design. Our old refrigeration system at the Rochester Ice Rink was a system that was already a used plant from another rink and was failing. The expenses to keep it running included time, electrical costs, and frustration. It had seen better days and there was no way to tell at what point any of the major components would fail. It was time to find a reliable system capable of aiding in the production of a quality ice surface for hockey.

Finding the next Ice Rink Refrigeration System

I was tasked with finding a chiller plant that was energy efficient and had a smooth operating cost. So, we began looking for a new chiller plant and found Emerald through our initial request for bids. Over the year that we did our research, we found many companies that wanted to bid on the project just wanted to submit a “replacement proposal” if you want to call it that. The criteria we used when comparing refrigeration systems was cost and the ability to retrofit our original chiller plant room. We were also looking for an energy conscious system with redundancy in order to have back up capabilities in case of failures.

To be honest, at first I wasn’t sold on the Cubes but we did site visits to other facilities, and after speaking with facility managers and looking at the set-up I was very impressed. Plus, they were able to reuse our old chiller plant room and newly replaced cooling tower at the time. Avoiding unnecessary deconstruction and construction that most systems would need just to get their unit into the chiller plant room, saved valuable room in the budget.

We are a seasonal rink, so we replaced the deteriorating refrigeration system with four of Emerald’s ice3 Cubes in 2012, which was perfect for our ice and turf used for spring sports and recreational programming. The ice3 Cube’s digital controls give us the ability to control how many Cubes turn on an off at certain times allowing us to minimize our energy usage. All of us like the way the program is laid out and it’s a user friendly web page. Right after installation there were minor changes that we had to address as we went along of course, but they were handled seamlessly by Emerald and their crew.

Personally, from an Arena Manager’s point of view, my favorite feature of the ice3 Cube refrigeration system is ease of use and the support that Emerald has offered since day one. I can call and get the support I need to problem solve, they stand by their product.

We have been using the ice3 Cube Refrigeration System for eight years now. The most obvious advantage we felt the ice3 Cube Refrigeration System offered us was reliability of the Cube which means minimal preventative maintenance and cost to run. In short, I had peace of mind knowing that the system will run smoothly and I can be away from the facility without worrying that I have to go in to fix something, it’s comforting.

The bottom line is you just can’t argue when our electric consumption has dropped helping us save thousands over the course of a season. As we all know, saving on operation cost is the biggest driver to stay open. An even bigger measure of success is the fact that we have not had to raise ice rates in the last FIVE years which helps us keep prices down, and kids playing.

Replacing the Floor, Dasher Boards, and Glass

The decision to replace the forty year old ice floor, 15 year old dasher boards, and protective glass was an Arena Advisory Board vision for replacement. We had minor heaving problems during the season so we did a request for proposals from companies bidding on the project and began our search.

We spent a year working bids for the floor replacement.

John Meade’s ability to come visit in order to help us visualize the process to replace the cold floor, the potential cost savings associated with it, and lay out a specific timeline from start to finish was a huge relief. When dealing with work of this scope, John made this daunting project seem easy.

We chose Preferred Mechanical Services because they were able to think outside the box to solve a few problems, keep us within our budget, and we had a great relationship with them because they were the installation provider of the ice3 Cube Refrigeration plant we had installed eight years ago, it was great to have them involved again.

Our staff is proud of the set up and they are able to deliver a quality ice surface to customers consistently. Those who skate here regularly say we have the best ice so at first we were hoping to keep that consistency, turns out we exceeded our “standard” of ice and did it with a cost savings.

The Proof is in the Pudding: Increase in Hours Sold and Lower Utility Bills

The refrigeration system and the ice rink floor are the two components creating the heart of any indoor skating facility. To have both be relatively new, it sets your mind at ease that things are running efficiently and require minimal service time. Together, the ice3 Cube Refrigeration System and the new cold floor, we’ve noticed how much more efficient they are when combined, it’s simply a better running system altogether.

As with all ice rinks, our growth is based on the user groups that rent the facility. Keeping the cost down helps keep the programs viable, so far we have seen an increase in hours sold from 1900 hours to above 2300 hours.

Our long-term energy saving goals were to consistently reduce our cost to operate. We use an annual Municipal Report and our yearly budget to track our utility savings and compare the year-to-year, month-to-month cost. We would like to see at least a ¼ reduction in our utility rates and we are trending that way.

The ice3 Cube Refrigeration System and new cold floor is a great product combination. Knowing that we can expect years to come without any major issues gives us more time to focus on other projects that need to be completed. We look forward to using the ice3 Cubes to air condition our facility in the summer and be able to use the waste heat in the winter as a passive heat.

The One-Two Punch of Ice Rink Efficiency

If you’re looking to replace your aging refrigeration system, talk to Emerald Environmental Technologies. If you’re looking to replace your cold floor, dasher boards, and glass talk to Preferred Mechanical Services because they will make this daunting project seem easy, we highly recommend them.

Request a Consultation

The expert team at Emerald Environmental Technologies can help define and customize which ice3 Cube combinations are ideal for your community/municipal/outdoor, upgrade project, or collegiate rink. Emerald Environmental Technologies is based in New England and services the entire east coast up through Canada. Please contact us today to request a free consultation. Email or call 603-238-9249 with questions.