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Gary McCreight, Operations Manager at Chesswood Arena sits on the edge of a Ice rink

Arena Shoots and Scores with $35,000 in Annual Energy Savings

Across the province, hockey arenas are often the hub of a community. However, they are also expensive to operate. With the aim of improving energy efficiency and lowering operating costs, Chesswood Arena, owned and operated by Buckingham Sports Properties, received more than $56,000 in incentives through the Save on Energy program to upgrade its ice rink control system and arena lighting. The retrofit not only delivered annual savings of $70,203 leading to a payback period of only two years, but it also improved the ice and skating conditions for patrons.
Built in 1973, Chesswood Arena is a 132,000-square-foot multi-purpose sports complex with 15 full-time and 25 part-time employees. Every year, 12,000 hours of ice time are logged on its four NHL-sized rinks. It houses a pro shop and a sports bar with a maximum capacityof 175 people. Besides adult hockey league and ice rentals, the facility also hosts local tournaments and parties.

Energy consumption is one of the most costly factors in running hockey arenas. Facilities have no choice but to operate equipment such as overhead lights (which produce heat) and refrigeration systems. Buckingham Sports Properties, owner of Chesswood and a number of other arenas across southern Ontario, is continually seeking innovative ways to lower its operating expenses, and in particular looks for solutions to introduce cost savings through sustainability. “Every dollar counts, so anything we can do to reduce our operating costs helps the bottom line,” says Gary McCreight, Operations Manager at Chesswood.

With this in mind, staff at Chesswood worked with the arena’s local hydro company, Toronto Hydro, to find energy efficient solutions that would lower its energy-related costs and improve its sustainability. “Ice rinks are very energy-intensive and can greatly benefit from energy-saving strategies,” explains Iain Robertson, Toronto Hydro. “Refrigeration systems generate the most energy consumption in hockey arenas, making them a great place to start with energy efficiency measures. Upgrading lighting systems is also a straightforward and inexpensive way for arenas to reduce operating costs.”

The refrigeration plant accounts for approximately 80% to 90% of the Chesswood’s electricity consumption. Previously, the high-powered compressor system used inefficient pumps that cooled the floor by circulating chilled brine to provide the ice hardness required.

Working with CIMCO Refrigeration, a Toronto-based arena refrigeration system supplier, the team installed an automated control system that uses an infrared camera mounted over the ice to sense the surface. Head pressure controls and variable frequency drives were integrated into the control system to adjust the level of cooling and maintain peak ice conditions. Many refrigeration systems are designed for outdoor conditions of 30°C, and as a result often have higher head pressures than needed. This results in high condensing temperatures and increased electrical consumption.

Regulating head pressure based on actual outdoor air temperature can deliver refrigeration savings as high as 25%, especially in areas with cold climates. Variable frequency drives (VFDs) are able to further enhance energy savings by matching motor output to real-time load. By lowering pump speeds when possible, VFDs can not only reduce the energy consumption of the pumps themselves, but also the amount of heat affecting the brine. This in turn reduces cooling loads.

The new ice rink controller, head-pressure controls and variable frequency drives have reduced the pump operating time from 24 hours per day to between 12 to 16 hours per day. The new system runs eight ammonia compressors, up to four brine pumps, two condenser fans and two pumps that maintain the four ice surfaces, and has resulted in a 33% to 55% reduction in equipment usage.

Chesswood has seen significant benefits thanks to the Save on Energy incentives. With each rink now individually controlled, power can be modulated according to specific needs and seasons. Operators can now ensure that the ice is at its coldest when it is in use during the day and then let it warm up throughout the night, resulting in considerable savings on the arena’s energy bills.

“80% to 90% of the energy costs for an arena come from the refrigeration plant,” says Richard Poole, Account Manager at CIMCO Refrigeration. “So whenever you can maintain peak ice conditions while the compressors and pumps don’t have to work as long or as hard, you’re going to see big savings.”


In recent years, energy-efficient LED lighting upgrades have become a priority for Buckingham Sports Properties. To date, it has completed an LED retrofit of its London arena, with additional upgrades at the Downsview Park location and Cambridge facility in progress.

At Chesswood, the savings gained from the refrigeration project were used to upgrade the facility’s outdated and energy-intensive lighting to LED in two of its four rinks. The 210w lights provide improved lighting and save an additional 234,525 kWh per year. Next year, Buckingham plans on upgrading to LED lighting in the other two rinks, the lobby and the change rooms. The new LED lights have a life of 20,000 hours and only have to be replaced every seven to ten years, compared to every two to four years for the old T5 and T8 lighting.

The energy conservation measures implemented by Chesswood improved the arena’s energy efficiency, improved conditions for customers and delivered cost savings that improved the facility’s bottom line. “We’ve seen 15% to 20% energy savings over the course of the first six months from the refrigeration plant upgrades alone,” says McCreight. “Also, the ice surface is now of a superior quality. Our users’ skates are sticking to the ice less and slide much better.” The refrigeration project will save approximately 34,000 kWh per year, which means more than $35,000 in annual electricity cost savings with a payback period of under two years.

Furthermore, the lighting upgrades have also yielded great results. “The rinks are significantly brighter with the LED upgrades, and our customers are definitely noticing and commenting on the difference,” McCreight says. As a result of the lighting upgrades, Chesswood is seeing savings of $35,178 annually, providing a payback period of under two-and-a-half years.
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