Icing a Diamond

This winter saw many extremes: Record-breaking cold weather.  Crater potholes turning highways into giant slalom courses.  The rising cost of heating homes and businesses.  Major storms named after miscellaneous movie gladiators.  One thing that was intense in a different kind of way was the increasing popularity of NHL hockey games played outdoors on baseball diamonds that had never seen ice or hockey before.

Original 2008 NHL Winter Classic

2008 Winter Classic

Many people wonder how they are able to turn a baseball diamond into a Winter Classic hockey rink without the ice melting. And if you weren’t worried about melting, perhaps you were wondering how they kept the ice at the particular temperature required for a professional hockey game.

An article in New York Magazine, gave us a step by step description on how something like this is done and after reading it, we thought it was worth talking about!

One of the first steps that the article mentions is that, in order to keep the ice frozen for the big games, they need to pump in 3,000 gallons of glycol through the league’s custom-made refrigeration trucks. While glycol is the low-temp secondary refrigerant that was chosen for this particular application, there are other types of cooling liquids that can be used for larger jobs such as this one.

In fact, recreational ice applications are an interesting example of the principles at work in fluid selection for any purpose, including industrial heating and cooling. Whether for recreational or industrial function, the choice of a specific fluid chemistry and physical properties must be informed by some familiarity with the unique conditions of the job at hand.

Portable Ice Rink

Portable Ice Rink

For instance, for rink-ice applications a salt-brine solution is likely the best, most efficient choice for year-round permanent rinks, while a glycol-water solution might be the better option for temporary installations such as those constructed on baseball diamonds or football fields for single events.

Why?  It may be oversimplification, because these are large, carefully engineered systems where other criteria may come into play depending on the specific needs at hand, but mainly because one system must be portable, and the other enjoys the stability of permanence. Brine solutions, such as calcium chloride or newer and more equipment-friendly chemistries like potassium formate are considerably more efficient and thus require a lower investment outlay for the supporting equipment, and for the liquid itself, than the glycol.  And the glycol solution tends to be more durable and more capable to withstand the unique demands of being pumped in and out of the system repeatedly when the big show moves from market to market.

And so it is with industrial heat transfer fluids. Even at the same operating temperature, you may want to specify a different fluid for a system that just runs at that temperature 24/7 than for another system that is shut down and started up several times a month, or one using multiple fuel sources, in a humid environment, in the Alaskan tundra.

In Depth:
Recreational Ice Refrigeration Athletic Business
Secondary Refrigerants Ontario Recreation Facilities Assoc.
CPTherm New Technology Brine Solution from CPI Fluid Engineering

Since functional liquids and additives, and the equipment circulating them, are constantly under development, the options continue to grow. Forty years ago, most professional ice and hockey rinks were above the Mason-Dixon Line. Technology advancements have allowed the sport’s migration to Texas, Florida, and beyond. Whether you go with glycol or brine or any other of a number of products to cool your large applications, we love to hear about stories and projects like the one mentioned in New York Magazine. Can you think of any projects that you have worked on, that are similar to this? Let us know in our comments section.