man sitting near the rink at the retrofitted Chesswood Arena

Arena scores savings with energy efficiencies

Improving the experience for players and fans alike inspired this Toronto hockey hot spot to undertake several retrofit projects.

The local hockey rink is the heart of many communities across Canada. It is home to pick-up games, tournaments, parties, meetings, concerts and more. It takes a lot to keep an arena running, from the right lighting to refrigeration costs.

At Toronto’s Chesswood Arena, leagues and recreational teams log 12,000 hours of ice time a year across its four NHL-sized rinks. The complex employs 15 full-time and 25 part-time staff and features a sports bar where families and friends gather, as well as a pro shop to serve aspiring hockey stars.

Before the arena undertook a retrofit and upgrade project in 2012, it was running outdated and energy-intensive equipment like refrigeration units that swelled the annual operating budget. Chesswood received $56,000 in incentives from Save on Energy, helping it make its upgrades for less.

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Did you know? Refrigeration plant upgrades cut pump operating time by up to 50 per cent.

A commitment to sustainability

Chesswood owner Buckingham Sports Properties was looking for long-term operations savings across the arenas it owns around Southern Ontario. “Every dollar counts so anything we can do to reduce our costs helps the bottom line,” says Gary McCreight, operations manager at Chesswood.

But the benefits of energy-saving projects aren’t restricted to cost savings. The upgrades have improved the overall experience for the players and skaters who use the facilities every day.

McCreight and the team at Chesswood worked with their electricity provider, Toronto Hydro, to find energy efficiency solutions throughout the arena. They quickly zeroed in on two areas where improvements could be made: lighting and the refrigeration systems that produce and maintain the ice surfaces.


Brightening the arena experience

There are a number of benefits to be gained from lighting changes. Among them, longer-lasting bulbs don't need to be changed as often, resulting in lower maintenance costs.

At Chesswood, outdated and energy-intensive lights were replaced with high-efficiency ones improving overall lighting conditions and reducing electricity consumption by more than 200,000 kWh per year (enough energy to power at least 20 typical homes for a year). The new LEDs last at least twice as long as the old fluorescent lights.

“The rinks are significantly brighter with the LED upgrades,” says McCreight. “Our customers are definitely noticing and commenting on the difference.”

Overall, the whole facility — from the rinks to the lobby and change rooms — looks fresher, brighter and cleaner, he says.

The lighting upgrades will contribute $35,178 in saved electricity costs annually, with a payback period of less than 36 months.

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Taking on the refrigeration drain

The changes to the lights have also helped as the new LED lights give off less heat, but lighting isn't the only area where Chesswood could save. The refrigeration unit accounts for 80 to 90 per cent of the electricity usage at the facility.

Working with a local refrigeration company, the team replaced the old, inefficient pumps which cool the floor to harden the ice. Previously, all four ice surfaces were being serviced uniformly by the compressor system despite different conditions in each arena.

The team also installed an automated control system that uses an infrared camera mounted over each ice surface to gauge temperature. Head controls and variable frequency drives were integrated into the control system to adjust the level of individualized cooling provided to each rink and maintain peak ice conditions, reducing the pump’s operating time substantially.

The refrigeration project will save approximately 34,000 kWh per year (enough energy to operate 95 residential chest freezers for a whole year). That also translates into more than $35,000 annually in electricity cost savings with a payback period of under two years.

Did you know?

The energy Chesswood saved with its retrofits is enough to provide electricity for approximately two 10,000-sq-ft. office buildings for a year.

How it works

The new rink controller, head-pressure controls and VFDs have cut the pumps’ operating time by nearly half in some instances — from running 24 hours a day to between 12 and 16 hours. Not only does that save energy, it also reduces wear on the equipment. From a quality management perspective, operators can now ensure the ice is at its coldest when it is in use during the day and then let it warm up throughout the night. And with each rink individually controlled, power can be adjusted according to specific needs and seasons.

The bottom line: everybody wins

The retrofit project has paid off in cost savings and a better customer experience.

“We’ve seen 15 to 20 per cent energy savings over the course of the first six months from the refrigeration plant upgrades alone,” says McCreight. “More importantly, the ice surface is now of a superior quality. Our users’ skates are sticking to the ice less and glide much better.”

That’s a goal everybody can celebrate.