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NHL triggering US growth in natural refrigerant ice rinks

Tuesday, July 05, 2016  
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NHL triggering US growth in natural refrigerant ice rinks

05 July 2016


Canadian manufacturer CIMCO has recently fitted an ammonia ice-rink at the T-Mobile NHL arena in south Las Vegas, Nevada. 

The 650,000 square-foot (198,000 square-metre) ice arena, which opened in April 2016, features a 17,000 square-foot (5,200 square-metre) ice rink. The area, which will host 100-150 events per year, is designed to be a multipurpose entertainment venue capable of hosting NBA and NHL teams, concerts, boxing, mixed martial arts, award shows and other major events. Coldplay, the Los Angeles Lakers and Billy Joel have recently played there.

CIMCO making inroads into NHL

CIMCO, meanwhile, has been a force in the North American industrial refrigeration market since the early 1900s. It is now one of the largest refrigeration companies in the USA and Mexico. Originally a Canadian company, it maintains its head office and primary manufacturing plant in Toronto, Ontario. It currently specialises in recreational and industrial refrigeration.


The company has always had a strong relationship with the NHL, Jose Mergulhao, CIMCO’s US Operations Manager and a keen hockey fan, told “I’m the point guy with the NHL,” said Mergulhao, who has worked at CIMCO for 21 years.


“I played hockey up to university as well, so it’s fun” to work closely with the NHL to design and install ice rinks, he said.


At the Las Vegas ice rink, Mergulhao worked to NHL specifications to project-manage and put in place a CIMCO ice rink with impressive energy efficiency and safety credentials. “The two packages [ammonia refrigerant and glycol solution] are designed for the most possible charge that we can put in there,” he said..


Steel floors, meanwhile, allow for efficient transfer of heat and cold. An infrared camera monitors the ice level. This contrasts with older systems that use brine and a reader, which is often difficult to read, to keep the ice system stable.


The ammonia charge is kept as low as possible by “optimising the condenser design, optimising the chiller, and reducing the charge,” said Mergulhao, helping to make it safe for NHL players to skate on.


This attention to detail and willingness to adapt their technology has allowed CIMCO to develop a long-standing relationship with the NHL, he explains. Indeed, the company is about to open another rink in Tampa, which he describes as the “largest facility in Tampa and largest rink, with five pads in it”.


There are also plans this year to install a rink for the Detroit Red Wings NHL team, and another rink in Las Vegas.


Growth in CO2 rinks


Diversification is the success to any business, says Mergulhao. Recognising this, CIMCO has added CO2 to their ice rink portfolio. He is enthusiastic about the growth possibilities in this market, as “[CIMCO] hold patents for CO2 ice rinks in Canada” and patent approval is pending in the USA.


The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) is driving innovation in natural refrigerants, said Mergulhao, arguing that the programme gives companies two choices. “You can either roll the dice and take another blend of refrigerant or take a natural refrigerant.”


For an environmentally conscious company like CIMCO, natural refrigerants are the clear choice, he said.



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