Metal Ice Skating Arenas: Reduce Energy and Operating Costs with Steel Construction

Published April 27, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

metal ice skating rink

Ice skating gains popularity after every Winter Olympics. In fact, it was the first televised Winter Olympics that brought figure skating into American homes.

Figure skating isn’t the only sport that people want to watch or participate in. There is:

  • Hockey (of course)
  • Speed skating
  • Curling
  • Broom ball (hockey with brooms and balls)
  • Open skate for public enjoyment

You may be considering a skating rink that can provide practice space for future Olympic hopefuls to amateur and Little League hockey.

An ice skating rink can be a facility for community use, or you may be constructing an ice arena for professional sports and entertainment. With steel, you can construct a rink suitable for skating lessons or a center where professional hockey shares space with Disney on Ice.

However, ice skating rinks are quite different from your everyday office building.

Facility use

How your rink is designed depends on the use:

  • Simple public use
  • Complex professional use
  • Stadium seating or casual seating
  • Whether you will cover the ice to use the facility for other sports

Ice rinks do share some requirements with other sports facilities and have a couple of concerns most building designers don’t need to worry about.

The biggest concerns for an ice rink

You need to control these three areas to maintain a successful rink:

  • Energy costs
  • Operating costs
  • Indoor climate

Technology can help reduce energy and operating costs. The biggest electricity user is the compressor that maintains the ice pad and the environment; the compressor alone is responsible for about 47% of ice rink electricity use.

The indoor climate makes the most difference between ice rink operations and operating a typical indoor sports facility or office building. An indoor ice rink will have thermal conditions that range from -5 degrees C on the surface of the ice to 10 degrees to 20 degrees C in the stands to over 20 degrees C in the dressing rooms and offices.

Ice skating facilities, like indoor pools, have high internal humidity that can cause metal corrosion, wood decay, and mold issues. The next section contains information about minimizing and controlling the environment with the appropriate construction materials.

Required elements of ice skating rinks

  • Insulation. Properly installed insulation is your biggest weapon against environmental issues indoors. The walls and the ceiling (the building envelope) need to be airtight to eliminate uncontrolled air infiltration. Vapor control barriers placed on the outside of the insulation membrane help maintain the environment. If improperly installed, air infiltration can be as much as 42% or more of the overall demand heat load.

Uncontrolled air infiltration is the main reason for high energy consumption. During warm and humid weather refrigeration and dehumidification make demands on the systems. In cold weather, space heating begins to take its toll on the energy bills.

  • Mechanical ventilation and dehumidification. Any sports facility needs adequate ventilation but for an ice rink control of the air and thermal quality of the environment is critical. Adequate air movement is needed to mitigate humidity and to keep the air healthy for those using the facility, especially in the dressing and locker rooms.

Ventilation design is complicated due to the presence of the ice pad in one area and very warm areas in the rest of the building.

  • Heating.  You can save on heating bills by capturing and reusing the heat created by the refrigeration equipment. In addition, you can equip the ventilation units with heating coils to warm recirculated air to supplement heating for water and extreme temperatures.

Why steel is the best material for an ice skating center

Steel is the best all-around construction material available because it is so globally available and flexible in its use.

Steel is economical

Metal buildings cost less per square foot to erect than any other building material. Steel can reap savings in a number of areas.

  • Insurance. You can lower your insurance premiums by using steel. Steel buildings are highly resistant to fire and are safe in seismically active areas.
  • Maintenance and repair. Steel requires little maintenance, and most repairs are easier and less expensive. Often you just replace a panel, and the repair is complete.
  • Utility savings. Steel buildings make it easy to control heating and air conditioning costs and electricity usage. Good ventilation increases the savings which is just what your ice rink needs anyway.
  • Waste reduction. Steel is 100% recyclable and major portion of steel used for building is made from recycled steel. A prefabricated steel building means there are no waste materials to remove from the jobsite.

Fast, easy construction

Prefabricated steel buildings are delivered to the jobsite ready to put together. The kit contains all the required fasteners, the holes have been pre-drilled, and everything is custom cut.

You get cost savings through less labor and no need for onsite material handling such as cutting and drilling.

High quality

Steel is extremely durable and easy to maintain. Steel retains all of its initial strength no matter how many times it is recycled.

Additional advantages

Steel is the only material that is strong enough to allow clear span design, a crucial element in an ice skating rink where the area for the ice cannot be broken up with columns, and you don't want to block sight lines from the seating for professional games and entertainment.

Steel frames have handy openings for insulation and utility cables and wiring. Your wall panels and roof area can be designed in any color, texture, or finish, including noise abatement qualities and colors to enhance lighting.

Planning your steel ice skating rink

If you are planning to build an ice skating rink, you need to plan carefully. An ice rink has special requirements not found in most building projects, especially regarding environmental control and clear span construction.

Building your facility with steel provides a high quality, durable arena that will last for decades with low maintenance and repair costs. Proper insulation increases energy savings and custom colors and textures provide flexibility in exterior and interior finishing.

An ice skating center can become the center of your community or host professional hockey, Olympic practice, or entertainment. You may be able to introduce new sports such as curling or offer fun alternatives like broom ball.  Anything you want, a steel building can provide the most economical and durable facility.

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