Ice Arena, Skating Rink Design

Refrigeration System Design Considerations

The primary purpose of a recreational ice refrigeration system is to safely and efficiently provide a high-quality sheet of ice under all normal operating conditions.

There are many styles of refrigeration systems; each of these systems serves a useful purpose for a particular application, and none of them are equally suited for all applications. Careful consideration must be taken to ensure that you get the system that suits your facility.

At Accent Refrigeration Systems we will work through the options with you to ensure that you are making the best long-term solution for your facility. Following is a basic list of discussion points that will be encountered in your journey to build a new ice facility. We can provide you with in-depth information and recommendations on each point during the design process.

Basic Venue Consideration

Is the facility to be an indoor ice facility or an outdoor ice facility?

Outdoor Ice Surface

Many important sub-base design considerations go into ensuring the long-term integrity of the concrete slab of an outdoor ice facility. Poor planning at this stage will almost always result in long-term problems.

By their nature, outdoor ice rinks can have extremely volatile load profiles, ranging from no load at all during times of cold, still air to extremely high loads on warm, windy days. Designing a refrigeration system becomes a balancing act between providing sufficient refrigeration capacity to accommodate high load conditions and keeping the installation costs within a practical budget. More often than not, a larger refrigeration system will be required for an outdoor ice arena.

Will the ice surface and refrigeration system remain in a permanent location, or will it be moved each season? This decision will determine the style of system that would be best for you.

It is always a good idea to install a sun screen or roof over an outdoor ice rink to minimize the impact of the sun, rain and snow.

Indoor Ice Surface

Most ice facilities are indoor venues and will have spectator seating ranging from none at all to professional venues with seating for more than 20,000 spectators. Spectator capacity will have a significant impact on the selection of refrigeration and ventilation equipment.

First Cost

How important is the first cost of the equipment to you? What are you willing to give up to lower costs? Ice quality, energy efficiency, equipment life cycle, safety?

With any new business venture, keeping your first cost down is very important in order to get the doors open. In an arena or curling club, your ice is your life and your refrigeration system is your lifeline to that ice. It must be done right. We will show you how to do it right, and how to allocate your budget so that it will pay dividends for years to come.

Facility Usage

Is your primary purpose going to be professional hockey, figure skating or community recreational skating? Each user group has a different optimal ice condition and a specific refrigeration requirement.

Will your facility be used year-round or just seasonally? A facility used for ice sports more than seven months of the year will require subfloor heating to eliminate the possibility of frost heaves.

Will you require a concrete floor for multipurpose use or a sand floor for ice sports only? A concrete floor requires less ongoing maintenance.

Ice Quality

How important is ice quality to you? Do you require unwavering perfect ice at all times of the year, even during unseasonably hot periods of heavy usage? How fast do you want your ice to recover after resurfacing?


How important is it to provide backup capacity to maintain your ice in the event of a breakdown or during maintenance? Are you planning any maintenance shutdowns or are you going to operate seven days a week for years on end? These decision points will influence the style of refrigeration system you should select.

Energy Efficiency

How much will the power cost to operate your ice facility? What is the exact billing structure for your area? Is there a peak demand charge? Do you pay a premium during peak hours? Are there any incentives available for premium efficiency systems or gas-driven equipment?

Utilities represent the second-highest cost to operate an ice facility. Any reduction in energy costs will go straight to your bottom line.

We will show you the savings offered by various energy-saving techniques along with the payback in your utility market.

Heat Reclaim

The entire refrigeration process involves moving heat from one area to another. Many applications exist for this valuable energy. Some of the more common uses are providing hot water for the ice resurfacer and showers as well as providing space heating in public areas and even powering the dehumidification system.

During the design stage we will show you many new and innovative ways to wring out every last bit of energy from your facility.

Environmental Requirements

Are there any bylaws or restrictions in your municipality that will restrict the use of calcium chloride, glycol, ammonia or Freon? Are there any noise level limitations in your area? Is there any health bylaws preventing or limiting the use of cooling towers or snow melt pits? Are there sewage dumping charges that will create additional unplanned costs?

Emergency Response Crews

Are your local fire department and emergency response personnel trained in dealing with emergency situations that might arise at your facility?

Operator Requirements and Ongoing Maintenance Requirements

Are there codes requiring mandatory supervision for an ammonia system or a Freon system over a certain size? Are there qualified refrigeration operators in your area?

The longevity of your refrigeration system and cost to operate and maintain your facility is dependent on your operations staff. We will provide you and your staff with the knowledge required to keep your facility operating at peak performance.

Ease of Operation

Is the system laid out in a manner that is conducive to normal operator inspection? Will the operators be trained to fully understand the operation of the system?

Equipment Room Requirements

What are the requirements for the plant room construction and ventilation? What special safety equipment is required for each class of refrigerant?


Are there any water restrictions, sewage charges or poor water conditions that might limit the use of evaporative condensers and cooling towers?

Refrigeration Equipment Lifecycle

The lifecycle of most recreation facilities is at least 30 years. It is best to plan for the refrigeration system to last at least that long. That should not be a problem for a well-built system supported by good maintenance practices. How easy will it be to replace major components in the future?