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A Manual for Running Compressor-Cooled Outdoor Rinks Really Well. Read more>>

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wood stove at Dufferin


Ice Maintenance

November 23, 2016

"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.


Individual rink refrigeration systems

February 25, 2016

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:

I wanted to let you know the other factors that might help determine whether a rink might need to be closed. The insulation of the pipes, as well as the distance they have to travel will impact the ability to maintain ice, irrespective of the horsepower of the compressor. The subsurface of the rink also varies through the city and will also impact how successfully ice can be maintained. In addition, two rinks with the same horsepower compressors may have differing sized chillers or condensers; a smaller chiller or condenser would result in having to throttle the system back, thus reducing its efficiency.

In additional to technical issues, environmental factors also impact staff's ability to keep rinks open. For example, the angle of the sun on the rink may, in warmer weather, cause melting which would cause the rink to be closed where it may not impact another rink.

That spreadsheet was missing some rinks: Campbell, Cedarvale, Christie, Dufferin, Trinity, Wallace-Emerson, Riverdale, Queensway, and Scarborough Civic (Albert Campbell).

The original information request:

"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.

Follow-up questions re the refrigeration data, March 7, 2016

I have now entered all the data on the rink pages, and will shortly link the corrected spreadsheet on every page as well. My CDRC rink report is postponed to the April 13 meeting, so that leaves time to fact-check a few things:

1. Please confirm:

- already-scheduled refrigeration system rebuilds or renovations, upcoming:

Etobicoke region:

2016: Queensway, Prince of Wales, Valleyfield

2017: Royalcrest

2018: Summerlea

Toronto region:

2016: Riverdale, Withrow (not noted on the spreadsheet)

2. Two rinks are starred for using Freon (Sherbourne and Kew), but three others also specify Freon in the recirculation excel column: Valleyfield, Joseph Bannon and Mel Lastman. Please clarify.

3. All but two of the Etobicoke rinks are listed as "ammonia" rinks. Does this mean 18 rinks have a direct ammonia system? (I suspect not, since it's regarded as dangerous, but please confirm).

4. Rinks listed as "poor" but with no renovation or replacement work scheduled: Buttonwood, High Park, Rivercrest (listed as having a 1974 refrigeration plant), Sir Adam Beck, Westgrove, and North Toronto Memorial. Please confirm that no remedies are planned yet, for any of those rinks.

5. Re Dufferin Rink: compressor age was marked as 1994. (Actual date 1993). But in late November 2014, rink staff said they saw the installation, with a crane, of what appeared to be a new compressor or some other large machine. Please confirm.

Errors: Broadlands and Glen Long are listed as double rinks -- they are single pads. Ramsden is listed in North region but it's in South. You mentioned that each rink's original age is also listed -- true, but many of those dates are off by some years or some decades. I've corrected them whenever I had additional information.

(there was no response to this)


A look inside a refrigeration room:

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.


Should ice be thick or thin?

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.

March 8 2015, 6 celsius, Harry Gairey rink unskateable.

Dufferin Rink, skating at 12 celsius: protective layer of water

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.

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Content last modified on January 16, 2018, at 10:44 AM EST