Outdoor rink struggles to keep up with warm weather

“Most of the challenges we have is you’re cooling from underneath but the heat comes from above.” Wes Amendt

Warm January weather is causing issues for the Scott Seaman Outdoor Rink’s cooling system, which is struggling to keep the ice cold enough to skate on.

Part of the issue appears to be on the north wall of the popular amenity, explained Wes Amendt, director of community services for the Town of Ponoka. When the sun shines on the north wall it tends to heat up the ice and melt almost down to the concrete.

“Most of the challenges we have is you’re cooling from underneath but the heat comes from above,” said Amendt.

Cooling the ice is a challenge as well for the half-inch lines. The combination of warmer weather and bright sunlight cause the system to work overtime. Compared to the three-quarter inch line in the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex, the lines are quite a bit smaller.

Normal operations and challenges

When temperatures are ideal, Amendt says town crews try to flood the ice once a day but their priority is to ensure the arena is taken care of first. When people pay for ice time and rental of the building, they expect a certain level of service, he explained.

Staffing levels have remained the same since the new rink was built a few years ago and Amendt says town planners have had to try and put forward balanced budgets and still maintain some level of service on the popular rink. “I don’t have the manpower to tackle that,” said Amendt.

Hiring more employees means in subsequent years the budget will reflect more money going to operations.

Other communities with outdoor rinks have taken to paying the overtime dollars and flooding at night but Amendt says that is something the town has decided against doing for now. Not only is it costly, but staff have to be willing to work in the night time hours, he explained. If the demand is there from the community, then Amendt feels the town will have to look at increasing service levels at the outdoor rink.

Another issue employees face is when the snow falls. It takes a few hours to clear the rink and that time increases if there is a large dump of snow. Amendt says it can sometimes take up to six hours to clear.

He recognized the efforts of outdoor rink users who push the snow to the side and suggests if they do, to push it along the north wall. There is a door there for staff to push snow off the outdoor rink.

Under direction from the Recreation Advisory Committee, town staff intend to add a second free-to-skate area just east of the rink but warm weather has delayed its flooding. The oval area does not have a cooling system but will be similar to an ice pond skating surface.