Ice prep work rings in the skating season

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— Just when summer feels like it's really here, the first signs of the winter recreation season are upon us. Aided by recent cool weather, the Department of Parks and Recreation has begun to get the Howelsen Hill Ice Arena ready for the ice skating season.
"We've had compressors going for two weeks," said Chris Wilson, director of the parks department.
Layers of ice are already being put in the rink, and soon, workers will be ready to paint lines and put a final coat on top.
"The system's running well," Howelsen Ice Arena Manager Stacey Foster said. "We have a new dehumidification system that's very efficient. It's just wonderful."
The dehumidifier, which was part of the rink's 2000 budget, cost about $45,000, Wilson said.
It keeps water droplets from collecting on the ceiling of the rink and falling onto the ice, forming bumps on the ice, Foster said. It also reduces the strain put on the refrigeration system which, without dehumidification, will try to freeze the wet air that hovers above the ice, she said.
Rink officials have been attempting to convince City Council members that they need a new refrigeration system to reduce electricity bills and to improve the efficiency of the ice-making process. Members of the Ice Rink Advisory Committee will meet with council members in a special meeting in September to talk about the rink's future.
In the meantime, the refrigeration system is being helped not only by the dehumidifier, but also by a series of capacitors that were installed in the compressor room. The capacitors store excess electrical current and smooth the peaks and valleys of the thermostat-controlled refrigeration system, Foster said.
With both the dehumidifer and the capacitors working, the system should be about 10 to 15 percent more efficient than in the past.
That should cut down on electric bills, which in the past have been as high as $89,000 for the eight-month ice rink season, Foster said.
The rink should be ready by Sept. 15, if not earlier, Foster said. A hockey camp is scheduled to start off the season that weekend. Youth hockey clinics and tryouts begin the following week.
Registration for fall adult hockey leagues begins Monday. Those who wish to participate should have their own equipment. On Sept. 15, the parks department will start taking registration for all "learn to skate" programs.
"People are chomping at the bit to get on the ice, no doubt about it," Foster said.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net

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