Powering a Hockey Arena

Powering a Hockey Arena

As the temperature drops and the snow flies, ice will be a common nuisance in the coming months. But for many, ice inspires life-long passions. While winter weather provides an abundance of the slick stuff outside, the process of creating and maintaining ice indoors is one of the many unique things that electricity is essential for.

The West Fargo Sports Arena opened in November.

The West Fargo Sports Arena opened in early November, adding much-needed indoor ice for West Fargo skaters. The new arena is now home to the West Fargo United—the combined West Fargo High and Sheyenne High girls hockey team—along with the boys teams of West Fargo High and Sheyenne High. The West Fargo Youth Hockey Association has also signed on as a major building occupant.

The West Fargo Sports Arena is just down the road from the Scheels Arena in Fargo, where a second sheet of ice was completed in 2016. As the options for skating in Fargo and West Fargo are on the rise, we take a look at what it takes to keep an ice arena up and running.

Unsurprisingly, the two main concerns in an ice arena are the comfort of guests and the condition of the ice. The West Fargo Sports Arena contains two sheets of ice with combined spectator viewing capacity for 1,200 people. Specially positioned HVAC equipment helps keep seating areas near a comfortable 55 degrees Fahrenheit, while the temperature near the ice remains significantly cooler. Both sheets of ice are equipped with a dedicated air handler, ensuring humidity levels in the arena remain at about 30 percent for optimum comfort and ice quality.

A system of compressors, pipes, and pumps
keeps the skating surface frozen solid.

The core of the ice-making process at the arena occurs behind the scenes, where a complex system of compressors, pumps, and pipes are used to create and maintain a smooth skating surface year-round.

Compressed ammonia is used to reduce the temperature of a brine solution to around 13 degrees Fahrenheit. The sub-freezing brine is pumped beneath the concrete floors of the skating surfaces, maintaining a temperature low enough to keep the ice solid.

The heat transferred from the brine to the ammonia is utilized in a nearby slush pit, where ice removed during the resurfacing process is dumped and allowed to melt. The remaining heat in the ammonia is shed via a cooling tank on the roof of the arena. Outdoor temperatures during the fall and winter months facilitate the cooling process naturally, but in the summer, a large cooling fan is used to remove heat from the ammonia.

While the mind turns naturally to the freezing process in an ice arena, a layer of insulation separates the network of cooling lines from an independent system of pipes buried even further beneath the skating surfaces. The upper network is all about freezing, but this bottom network does the exact opposite.

Water heated from the process of keeping the arena’s compressors cool is pumped through the lower network to keep the ground beneath the skating surfaces from freezing as a result of the ice-making process. If left to freeze, the ground beneath the rinks could shift and buckle, causing damage to the rink floors.

To top it all off (literally), the West Fargo Sports Arena relies on a pair of electric ice resurfacers (commonly known by the generic trademark Zamboni), generously sponsored by First International Bank & Trust, to keep the ice in top form during and between events. These machines handle three tasks at once: washing the ice, shaving a layer off the top, and laying down clean water for a fresh frozen surface.

Massive battery packs power the
arena's ice resurfacers.

Keeping a high-quality indoor skating surface is no small task. It requires advanced machine coordination and expert supervision to ensure that proper ice-making conditions are met and maintained. CCEC is proud to play a role in helping facilities like the West Fargo Sports Arena become community staples.