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"Best practice" for outdoor rinks is to start the compressors 2 -3 days before ice is to be made (depending on the temperature) and then leave 5 days to make ice slowly, in the dark. The City of Toronto has not followed that procedure since amalgamation, often leaving only three days or less to put water down. Then if the weather doesn't do part of the ice-making work, city workers say it's the fault of climate change.
The staff were also trying to make ice in daylight instead of in the dark, but it seems that this year they may have shifted back to doing the night shift. Progress, maybe.
A few start-up diaries from other years.
Information requested on January 20 has arrived from Parks Director Richard Ubbens about the cooling systems of most of the outdoor rinks, citywide. The first spreadsheet was accompanied by a caution:
That spreadsheet was missing some rinks: Campbell, Cedarvale, Christie, Dufferin, Trinity, Wallace-Emerson, Riverdale, Queensway, and Scarborough Civic (Albert Campbell).
"Could I get the city's list of compressor-cooled outdoor rinks with the number and strength of the compressor(s) and the recirculation pumps in each rink, as well as the year of purchase of each rink's equipment?"
But the spreadsheet only gave the year the rink was probably first built.
Upon request, a second spreadsheet arrived with the missing rinks added (although some information was incomplete) and the age of the equipment added.
Two rinks are starred in the spreadsheets because they use freon as a refrigerant (environmentally problematic): Kew and Sherbourne Common. There seem to be three others as well: Valleyfield, Joseph Bannon and Mel Lastman.
(there was no response to this)
11-minute Youtube film about what's in an arena refrigeration room here, showing the kinds of machines that make and sustain ice in arenas and outdoor artificial ice rinks.
In winters that have a lot of rain, ice thickness begins to be a problem for outdoor rinks. It's important to take off water once it rains, because otherwise the ice gets so thick that the rinks might as well be natural ice rinks -- the pipes underneath can no longer freeze that volume of ice when it gets warm or the sun gets stronger.
In March 2008, the thickness of ice got out of control at quite a few rinks. The foreperson in the east part of downtown sent word that Jimmie Simpson Rink might have ice as thick as 9 inches, which he said was no problem. But when the ice is thicker than 3 inches, the pipes under the concrete are too insulated to freeze the ice surface properly, from the bottom up.
The time when thicker ice can help is on mild March days. If the ice gets a layer of water on top before the sun can turn the ice mushy, that water will protect the ice if the sun comes out later. One darkness comes, the zamboni can take the water off and scrape the ice underneath very smooth.
However, if it's too cool to melt water on top, and the sun comes out, the sun will turn thick ice into a pudding, or if the ice is thinner, it will melt down to the cement fast. Then it's very hard to restore the ice even when it gets cold again.
Too much suspense, always a cliffhanger -- better to just return to the traditional rink season of mid-November to the first Sunday in March.