Howelsen Ice Arena to undergo extended annual closure this month

Howelsen Ice Arena will undergo its annual maintenance closure from May 8 to June 5, 2023. On top of typical upkeep, the arena will do a full ice replacement and install a new condenser unit for indoor refrigeration.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Howelsen Ice Arena has scheduled its annual maintenance closure to start Monday, May 8, but the rink will be closed longer than years past and will not reopen until June 5.

Beyond the usual upkeep, the arena will have its condenser unit replaced, which can be about a two-week process. The machine was in need of a replacement, which became a priority project when approved in last year’s Steamboat Springs Capital Improvement Plan budget. 

The rink typically operates 50 weeks per year, but the extended closure this year is due to the timeline for the Capital Improvement Plan, which ranks the condenser unit replacement as a high priority project. 

Howelsen Ice Arena complex supervisor Dmitry Chase said the closure varies year to year depending on the project list and other criteria. The condenser unit replacement will begin May 15 and could take more than two weeks.

“A week or two before that we will be removing the ice and doing a complete shutdown of the refrigeration plant, along with a full major overhaul with our compressors, which is something that is done biannually,” Chase said.

The condenser unit is part of the refrigeration skid that does a lot of the heat exchange outdoors, and the equipment is approaching the end of its useful lifespan.

Arena Products and Services has been contracted to do maintenance contractor for the city and works on the refrigeration plant annually. The company also will do the work on the condenser unit replacement. 

Howelsen Ice Arena’s existing condenser unit has been in use for nearly 25 years. Dmitry Chase believes the new one will last just as long or longer.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Chase estimated that most refrigeration skids across the country have a useful lifespan between 15 and 25 years, and he said the unit has been in use for close to 25 years at the ice rink. However, there are many variables in a unit’s life expectancy because of things like quality controls on water, exposure to elements and more.

“This unit in particular is exterior, so it is on the outside of the building and is exposed to all the elements,” Chase said. “I would expect the new install would last at least as long as this one did, if not longer.”

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According to Chase, the arena’s chiller barrel underwent an eddy-current test in 2018, and the test gave a good indication on the lifespan of the entire refrigeration plant. He estimates the lifespan was nearly double the average because of the quality maintenance work that has been done on the unit over the years. 

Other maintenance plans include pulling the ice entirely from the complex. Chase said there is an inch and a half ice slab on top of a concrete slab, and they will be removing the ice and doing a complete rethaw. Removing and reinstalling the ice has become a big priority.

“Besides that we are just doing our regular upkeep and general building maintenance,” Chase said. “Refinishing walls, doing flooring replacement in certain areas that require it, etc.”

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