Municipal Arenas Project

Municipal arenas

Helping Municipalities Save Energy and Money in the Operation of Arenas – A Special Project of the Mayors’ Megawatt Challenge


In 2006 and 2007, ten Ontario municipalities enrolled 27 separate arenas in our collaborative project to develop and achieve large-scale energy and water use savings in arena facilities, through identification and implementation of comprehensive energy retrofit projects and operational best practices.

Crucially, the project was designed to learn fundamental lessons for arena energy savings applicable to all (or most) arenas!

Arenas Project Partners

Municipal Participants Funders Consultants
City of Hamilton Federation of Canadian Municipalities Enerlife Inc.
City of Guelph Union Gas Toronto Hydro Energy Services
Town of Richmond Hill Hydro One Finn Associates
City of Burlington Powerstream
Municipality of Smith Ennismore Lakefield
Town of Uxbridge
Town of Milton
City of Kitchener
City of St. Catharines
City of Waterloo
City of Toronto (provided audit data from their own arena efforts)
City of Mississauga (provided audit data from their own arena efforts)


All the audits were conducted under similar winter weather conditions. Data loggers were used to obtain a usage profile for the ice plant at each location. The ice plant was defined as the pumps and motors of the compressors, the brine system and the cooling towers. The total consumption measured for the week was then divided by the area (sq. ft.) of the total ice surface being maintained.

The results show a variance of up to 6:1 between the lowest and highest energy users in the following categories:

Metric Variance
Ice Maintenance (kWh/week/sq. ft. ice) 4:1
Ice Plant Peak Demand (kW/sq. ft. ice) 4:1
Ice Plant Duty Cycle (% runtime) 3:1
Rink Lighting (W/sq. ft. ice) 6:1
Total Facility Gas Usage (m3/sqft/#mths ice in) 4:1
Total Facility Energy Usage (ekWh/sq. ft./#mths ice in) 3:1

The fact that some facilities are performing up to 6 times better than others in these areas indicates the presence of terrific opportunity for action and savings.

Actionable Reasons For These Variances:

Beyond the obvious operational variances (differences in flooding frequency, hours and type of actual ice usage) our project discovered many factors contributing to high arena energy use. Many of these are correctible with simple retrofits or operational changes, such as:

  • Compressors needlessly running all the time
  • Inefficient lighting (T5 rink lighting, with its multiple level settings, clearly had the lowest consumption of all the other systems and it was reported that the light levels were quite acceptable for all their scheduled activities).
  • Knowledge and involvement of the operations staff. (The energy performance of the ice plant was found to be directly related to the level of staff expertise – There is a need to establish a connection for the operators between their activities and its effect on energy usage in their facility).
  • Operations. Operators who are responsible for tracking and managing utility consumption data and for reporting on performance and results are, by definition, better energy managers. This closes the “action-reaction loop” and gives operators a stronger sense of ownership of the energy saving objectives expected by management.
  • Operations: The keeping of activity logs, utility meter readings, regular attention to monitoring and maintenance of:
    – Brine density / temperature
    – Flooding frequency and efficiency
    – Ice temperature and setback during long down times
    – Time of day demand charges
    – Summer/Fall startup during off peak times (over night/weekend)
    – Optimization of condensing temperature with outdoors temperatures
    – Cooling fluid distribution (# passes, variable speed)
    – Humidity control
    – Spectator heating temperature
    – Low e ceiling
    – General equipment maintenance

In short, even without large scale retrofit projects, great strides can be taken toward reducing arena energy use by simply developing a systematic energy management approach to administering these facilities.


Previous work by NRCan and Hydro One has indicated energy savings potential averaging 25-40% in arena facilities, with paybacks in the order of 5 years, and with typical cost savings in the range of $20,000/year. Opportunities exist for achieving better efficiency in arena ice plant operations.

In addition to providing detailed retrofit and design recommendations for each of the 27 specific arenas, the Mayors’ Challenge Arenas project has added to previous studies by outlining easy operational changes that can, and will, have great impact on energy reduction. A systematic energy management approach to the administration of arenas can have a real impact in reducing energy footprints.

From here, we feel there is a critical need for a standardized ‘ice plant operations training package and activity logging system.’ Operators need to be given the opportunity to take more ownership of system operations and its impact on energy consumption and conservation. There may be a good business case for changing out older, much less efficient ice plants rather than maintaining and modifying them. The return on investment from reduced energy consumption with the higher efficiencies of modern equipment is worth looking at.

There is a wealth of online information, resources, training and support available from organizations like CanMet, ORFA and Cimco pertaining to arenas and ice plant operations.

If you have questions about this project or its findings, please contact:

Bernie McIntyre, B.Sc., MSc.
Senior Manager, Community Transformation
416.661.6600 ext. 5326
416.402.5232 (cell)