Ice Plant Operational Limitations Warning

August 22, 2023

The Ontario Recreation Facilities Association (ORFA) continues to monitor the trend of ice user demands for untraditional ice season schedule extensions. It is extremely important to remind and warn ice surface facility owners that not all ice rinks are designed equal or capable of maintaining safe and serviceable ice conditions in extreme outdoor temperatures. Most of Canada's indoor refrigerated ice sheet facility inventory was originally designed for seasonal use only. Traditionally, late fall to early spring (mid September to mid April). However, ever shifting weather patterns have reduced this capability in many facilities. This seasonal weather change, together with a lack of refrigeration ability have impacted recent court preceding and have set precedence for future litigation.

Registered ice surface refrigeration plant users and operators are responsible to understand a refrigeration plant capability and limitations when extending an ice arenas user schedule. Additional awareness of reduced plant capability based on refrigeration plant equipment age and wear must also be included in the decision-making process of meeting user extension requests. Plant users should work with their refrigeration plant service providers in calculating individual plant capabilities and limitations to understand any risk associated with meeting user requests.

The following is offered as awareness of minimum refrigeration plant equipment size and ability. An 85’ x 200’ ice surface should at minimum have:

    • 85 tons of refrigeration
    • An Ammonia plant with reciprocating compressors should at minimum have 150HP (horse power)
    • Freon and CO2 plants would require separate refrigeration load and equipment size calculations

These calculations may be impacted by other facility equipment and design such as, but not limited to, building insulation values, air handlers, dehumidification systems, age, wear, and staff training.

The ORFA strongly recommends that plant users (a designated person) create and share operational information that outlines their refrigeration equipment capabilities and limitations with senior administrative staff (owners), so they might fully understand the issues, risks and liabilities associated with overextending an ice surface facility operational season. Speaking with the facility owner insurance risk department to determine if a waiver extension that transfers liability to the user requesting the extension should also be considered. In addition, undersized plants will use a significant amount of additional energy, while also reducing the life expectancy of key components of the refrigeration plant and should be factored into an asset management plan. With an option to transfer these additional operating costs through higher user rental fees to the user group(s) requesting the season extension.