Geothermal rink attracts new curlers

New members have been coming in by the droves to sign up for Vanderhoof's curling club

Malcolm McLeod (ice plant installer)

Malcolm McLeod (ice plant installer)

The state-of-the-art revival of Vanderhoof’s curling club has grabbed the attention of hundreds of old and new curlers.

But it wasn’t too long ago that the club was on the brink of closure due to high utility bills and low membership. The recent year-long restoration of the walls, floors, and new ice plant, have helped so extensively with energy savings and beautification, we just may survive, said Jim Woodruff, master ice maker and curling club member.

“Our club was going broke. We couldn’t afford heat and hydro,” said Mr. Woodruff. “The old plant ran 24 hours a day 7 days a week, it was killing us. There were less people curling and we just didn’t have the revenue coming in. We used to have three bonspiels (tournaments) a year with people drinking and curling all weekend. That went down to one or none.”

About three years ago the Vanderhoof Curling Club knew they had to do something because two thirds of their annual cost ($36,000) was being spent on utilities. After much persistence, they finally got enough grant funding and in September 2013 started construction with a total reno budget of $460,000.

“Before the worst cost was heat and hydro, but now the new ice plant will be saving us at least 50 per cent on utilities,” said Malcolm McLeod, ice plant installer and curling club member. “The old plant was bought used and installed in 1977 when the building had a fire. It was on it’s last legs then and should have been replaced ten years ago.”

The old ice plant chilled brine with one machine which cooled the floor. Now, a geothermal ice plant has replaced it with three heat pumps to extract heat from the rink floor and provide staging as required so they’re not all running continually, said Mr. McLeod.

“Basically nothing is wasted,” said Mr. McLeod. “We use heat recovered from the ice to heat the lobby and lounge, and to keep the rink at a comfortable four degrees Celsius.”

The pipes that run under the ice are also new, embedded in concrete with four inches of Styrofoam underneath. The pipes used to sit on sand which made it harder to make the ice because it wasn’t as level as the concrete floor, said Mr. Woodruff.

“It saves energy making the ice if you can keep the cold in the zone you want it, and if you don’t have to remake it as often. There also used to be holes in the walls and debris would fly in onto the ice,” said Mr. Woodruff.

Sidewalks, benches, a storage room, house rings, scoreboards and all new lighting were also recently installed at the club. And,  because the exits have been brought to code and the concrete floor put in, more people are allowed in the building at once. This means it can now be rented out and used as a multipurpose building said Bud Pye, a volunteer who oversaw the entire construction.

“This is the third curling rink in Vanderhoof and I’ve worked on all of them,” said Mr. Pye. “All the work was done locally by local contractors and support through many volunteers. Most of the work done you can’t see like the concrete floors, walls and piping, but it was a community effort and the money stayed right here. Vanderhoof is a very generous town and we couldn’t have done it without all the volunteers.”

Since re-opening just over a month ago, there are twelve men’s teams, nine women’s teams and over 30 new faces. The next open-mixed curling night is Tuesday. For more information contact John Murphy, President of the Vanderhoof Curling Club, at 250-570-1751.