Rising late-season temperatures and humidity which create unsafe ice conditions and uncomfortable temperatures in buildings are a constant source of headaches for NHL clubs in the South. Recently, the Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena took a big step towards curing that problem in the Music City.
Driving down Broadway this week, it was difficult not to notice the 100-foot crane parked on the Bridgestone Arena plaza. The crane was a part of a bigger venture that began during the 2011-12 season to update and improve the HVAC system in Bridgestone Arena.
“The building is 17-years-old and it was time to update the systems we have,” Nashville Predators President and Chief Operating Officer Sean Henry said. “Ultimately, this is going to create a safer playing surface and it creates a more fan-friendly environment. Now our fans won’t have to wonder if the building is too humid or freezing cold, they’ll be able to leave their house and know exactly what to expect when they enter the building.”
This week’s work centered around cutting a maintenance hatch through the membrane on the roof of the Predators home. This new maintenance hatch – which wasn’t in the original plans of the arena – will allow equipment to be moved in and out with greater ease. The hatch was needed for workers to install equipment for the HVAC system into the maintenance room at the north end of the arena.
The system isn’t completely new, as it uses many of the existing ducts in the building, but unlike the existing system, the new additions will allow for greater temperature control and a more comfortable viewing experience at Nashville Predators games and concerts in the venue.
The biggest piece of the new HVAC is a dehumidifier system. In the past, the Preds had to rent a dehumidifier to allow for better playing conditions through the final months of the season and into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The NHL has a recommendation policy for all rinks in regards to temperature and humidity levels, and the ice crews try to use those recommendations as guidelines throughout the year. The new system will allow the Bridgestone ice crew to meet those guidelines more efficiently. The ultimate goal for all those involved is keeping the building dry and at a comfortable temperature year-round, while maintaining a cool and solid ice surface, creating better playing conditions for the Preds.
“All rinks are different,” Bridgestone Arena Ice Manager Steve Fruik said. “Here at the Bridgestone, I like to have a surface temp for hockey that is in between 19 and 21 degrees. Once the games begin, I have to adjust the floor temperature throughout the game depending on how warm it is inside of the bowl. Obviously, the temperature changes as more people come into the building. It can sometimes rise by as much as 10 degrees from the time doors open at 5 p.m. until the end of the game. With the new HVAC system in place, that temperature discrepancy shouldn’t be a problem, and I hope to achieve and maintain the best ice in the NHL.”
Perhaps the most important element to the new renovations is the environmental impact of the new system. The new system will reduce the energy required to cool the building and decrease the arena’s carbon footprint.
“We are going to reduce our expenditures by at least 20 percent and our usage will be cut down by nearly the same amount,” Henry said. “It’s the smart thing to do financially, but more importantly, it’s the responsible thing to do for the environment and the community.”