Jul 1, 1998

Energy Improvements in Public Ice Arenas


There are approximately 270 indoor ice arenas in the state of Minnesota which spend a total of $13.5 million annually on energy costs. This project's technology assessment and on-site engineering analyses have demonstrated the potential to cost-effectively reduce ice arena energy costs by an average of 30 percent. After completing a technology assessment and survey of publicly owned arenas, the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) then worked aggressively with 28 publicly owned ice arenas in Minnesota with the resulting implementation of $575,000 worth of energy efficiency and air quality improvements in 16 arenas. The improvements provide an energy cost savings of $106,500 annually. Educational promotion of energy efficiency and air quality improvements was also carried out.

Both site-specific engineering analyses and matching grants proved to be critical components of the project's efforts to encourage the installation of cost-effective improvements. The site specific engineering analyses proved to be invaluable for the following reasons:

  1. the appropriate combination of technologies and their cost-effectiveness varied significantly from arena to arena
  2. the audit reports provided clear recommendations along with supporting information that could be used by arena managers as tools both for decision making and to get buy in from key administrators and city council members
  3. very detailed engineering specifications were necessary for proper implementation of a number of the measures

The low priority typically given to energy saving improvements was one of the barriers to the success of this project and it made the one-for-one matching grants a key component. A total of $222,900 worth of grants were provided and this amount was matched by local funding sources on a one for one basis. An additional 20 percent of the work was funded by local sources without a match. In addition to the state's matching grants, utility sponsored no-interest loans provided financing for about half of the improvements.1 With this financial support and follow-up engineering services, one-third of the recommended, cost-effective improvements were installed. The number of completed improvements was partly limited by the ability of the municipalities to devote the necessary budget and administrative time necessary to complete the improvements within the project timeline. Because of competing funding and city staff priorities, a majority of the improvement work was completed in only the last two months that the matching grant funds were available, and three planned retrofit projects were not started.

The amount of post-retrofit verification of energy savings has been limited by the late completion of most of the energy saving improvements. However, on-site monitoring of a number of facilities has provided verification and valuable performance insights for a limited number of the energy and air quality improvements.