Panorama arena ice plant replacement nears $1 million

Ice rinks to cease operation a month early to facilitate installation of new ammonia system.

Refrigeration specialist Brendon Parker

After limping along following an ice plant blowout last November, the two arenas at Panorama Recreation Centre in North Saanich will see a replacement system installed this spring.

The arena refrigeration system replacement project will cost an estimated $950,000, says John Goodwin, Panorama’s Manager of Facilities and Operations. The lion’s share — approximately $650,000 — will pay for a new, ammonia-based ice plant. It will replace the current Freon system, said Goodwin, adding that tenders for bids will go out to suppliers of the equipment on March 23.

The remaining money will be used to upgrade the facility’s engine room to accommodate the new machinery and add safety measures to protect staff, customers and the neighbourhood from potential ammonia concerns.

Goodwin said all bidding will go before the Peninsula Recreation Commission for the final say on suppliers.

Replacing the ice plant at this stage was not in the Recreation Commission’s budget plans. According to a January 22 report to the Commission, the project will be paid for out of the capital reserve fund, leaving a projected deficit “to occur in 2018.” In their original financial plan, the ice plant was to be replaced in 2017. Goodwin said the damage the current system suffered last year changed that timeline.

Power fluctuations on Nov. 7, 2014 shut down various pieces of equipment at the rec. centre, including the ice plant. After re-starting the equipment two times, refrigeration went offline again on Nov. 11. Goodwin said a piece of the compression system ruptured. It would still work, he said, but that has meant his lead hand, Brendon Parker, has had to manually adjust pumps and pressures to maintain an equal chill balance between both ice surfaces.

“We did everything we could. We didn’t want to lose the ice season.”

A new system, he said, will fix that problem and increase efficiency as well.

“Freon-based systems are being phased out by 2020,” he said. “A new system will have a 40-year lifespan, so this is the time to make a step forward.”

Goodwin said he researched a similar ammonia-based ice plant in Comox to ensure the technology will work at Panorama. It will, he added, eliminate the use of Freon normally used between Arenas A and B. The switch to ammonia will mean added alarms and monitoring gear, he said, to meet B.C. Safety Authority regulations. After upgrading the engine room, Goodwin said a prefabricated ice plant should be able to be inserted inside and connected to existing arena infrastructure.

To facilitate the work, the ice surfaces will be removed almost a month early, closing on March 31. Work is expected to begin the following day.

Goodwin said the goal is to have the new ice plant installed and arenas ready for the 2015/2016 ice season.