Technical Corner

The Future of AI in Recreation Facility Operation and Management

March 19, 2024

Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” — Henry David Thoreau


Investment in robotics and automation continues to grow. AI-enabled tools and robots will help tackle the challenges of reduced staffing levels, ongoing monitoring as well as performing basic cleaning tasks. By combining automation hardware with smart software, manufacturers will deliver new opportunities in logistics to our industry. The main aim of using AI is to better manage variability and unpredictability of key and critical components such as HVAC, dehumidification, refrigeration, and ice maintenance equipment. AI will track changes in the facility and equipment use and adjust operations to maximize energy savings while developing maintenance plans in real time.

The industry already sees this type of investment by ice resurfacer manufacturers, refrigeration service providers and programs offered by ORFA training partner MARMAK on tracking ice depth and conditions. It is important to understand that we are very much in the infancy of AI applications and as an industry, we will need to explore how governing authorities and insurance carriers will embrace or limit the use in this early stage of development. Currently, refrigeration operational data can be collected using technology but storing the information seems rooted in “print and place in a binder” once collected to meet the current requirements of the regulations.

Resurfice Corp. was one of the first innovators in our industry as they launched ice resurfacer laser leveling technology [more]. This technology was the first attempt of taking some of the control out of an operators hands to improve ice quality while reducing costs.

The CIMCO IQ System [more] software helps track rising energy prices, extreme weather caused by global warming, and the governments net zero mandates put in place to help reduce the impact of this challenge. From an operational lens, the software will assist in tracking internal pressures such as tighter budgets and short staffing. These types of automation systems are designed to face the obstacles head on and keep operators in control of their facility’s environment.

Zamboni Connect Z [more] is another example of innovation in real time data collection. The system harnesses the power of data within the machine so that management can monitor consumption and optimize performance with predictive insight and resource management. Management can now use predictive maintenance to prevent downtime and to extend the life of the resurfacer. Diagnostics and historical data from the fuel-powered machine’s engine or an electric-powered machine’s battery, motors and controls give the operational team the insight it needs to maintain a proactive rather than a reactive maintenance schedule. In addition, it provides the facility with the ability to monitor energy and water consumption and other variables during resurfacing which provides a new vantage point to save valuable resources and improve the bottom line. Unplanned equipment failure should be dramatically reduced as we move forward.

The ORFA’s training partner MARMAK Data Analysis offers a variety of data tracking tools to assist in efficiently operating and managing today’s recreational infrastructure [more].

The Canoe Procurement Group [more] launched in June 2021, as a unified identity for all Canadian municipal, public sector, and not-for-profit organizations to participate in collectively managing purchases. This software allows for an equal playing field when sourcing large capital purchases.

Watching the evolution of AI in fire protection sees digital ITM reporting, typically referred to as third-party reporting it involves using software that enables the electronic delivery of reports. Governing agencies can then use these reports and inspections management software as a means to enforce NFPA standards for sprinklers, fire alarms, and other systems. Some will provide inspection software platforms to fire protection contractors.

The products and services offered in this communication is a highlight of advancements made by some ORFA Corporate members – there are many others located on our web site at

The ORFA reminds that AI technology will only fit within the logistics of our industry by working alongside the facilities human personnel to create more efficient workplaces. AI will help to automate dirty, dull, and dangerous tasks with automation playing a crucial role in addressing workforce gaps that will allow future growth in the industry. But only if facility staff remain educated and well informed to leverage this power.

    Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Director, Training, Research and Development, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association

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