The Calumet Colosseum in Calumet, Michigan, is considered one of the oldest in-use indoor ice arenas in the world. For the residents of this small village in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, hockey has been an integral part of their culture for more than a century. Since hosting its first hockey game in 1914, the Calumet Colosseum has served as a venue for both semi-professional and recreational hockey teams and was even briefly converted to a National Guard Armory during World War II

The facility maintained an all-natural ice rink until 1968, when artificial ice was installed and supported via a dedicated refrigeration system. Since then, this system has undergone minor periodic renovations to keep it operational but had never experienced a major upgrade. 

That all changed in 2019, when the passionate hockey community of Calumet won the Kraft Hockeyville contest, a coveted annual honor supported via a partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL) and its players’ association. As winners, Calumet was awarded $150,000 for colosseum ice rink upgrades, $10,000 worth of new hockey equipment, and the opportunity to host a 2019 NHL pre-season game.


Calling in the ice arena experts

To design and implement a modern refrigeration system for the colosseum’s ice rink, facility managers needed a refrigeration contractor with expertise in ice arena system design and installation. Enter St. Cloud Refrigeration (SCR), a St. Cloud, Minnesota-based commercial HVAC and industrial refrigeration contractor with the unique experience of having designed refrigeration systems for more than 20 regional ice arenas. Justin Zembo, industrial project manager, SCR, said the Calumet Colosseum project required a modern approach to refrigeration system design.

“Their existing system was becoming very problematic, to the point that they could barely maintain the ice rink,” said Zembo. “We took the opportunity to assess the colosseum’s specific requirements and make recommendations for an optimal system for their needs.” 

SCR designs systems with a focus on energy management and supervisory controls that allow facility managers to closely monitor and control ice conditions. Emerson’s Site Supervisor facility control platform is SCR’s preferred method for helping the end user to achieve these goals. 


Placing control into the hands of facility managers

After being awarded the contract for the Calumet Colosseum refrigeration system redesign, the SCR team went to work. The upgraded system utilized open-drive Vilter™ compressors, which are optimized for industrial-duty applications and help drive energy efficiencies, to serve as the backbone. The team added electronic expansion valves (EXVs) and installed variable frequency drives (VFDs) on a compressor and a brine pump. 

According to Zembo, Site Supervisor was instrumental in allowing the user to have the necessary control over the upgraded system. 

“Site Supervisor was used to consolidate, control, and monitor all of these system components,” said Zembo.

One of the main advantages of using Site Supervisor is its ability to be quickly customized for the system configuration to the needs of the facility. Each input can be named to represent an asset and make it easy for facility managers to establish set points, create performance thresholds, and quickly identify system operation. Its intuitive, web-based design can be accessed on-site or remotely to give facility managers the ability to monitor and control every aspect of refrigeration management, including discharge and suction pressures, glycol or brine temperatures, and compressors performance.

Built-in notification capabilities generate text and email alerts when conditions exceed the system’s defined thresholds. 

This degree of end-user control is particularly useful in preparing the ice for its various states of use and occupancy. For example, facility managers can precisely control the ice temperature to correspond with hockey games, figure skating, and other events while establishing setback temperatures for overnight hours or periods when the ice rink is not in use.


A strong foundation for the future

With the completion of its refrigeration system upgrades, the Calumet Colosseum’s hockey rink was back on solid ice. Its first order of business was to host an NHL pre-season game between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues — an honor that came from winning the Kraft Hockeyville contest. Once the dust settled from the NHL game and reopening celebrations, facility managers quickly realized the many associated benefits of the refrigeration system, including significantly reduced system runtime, a lower system capacity needed to achieve optimal ice temperatures, a 47% reduction in power consumption compared to previous three seasons, tighter set point adherence to ice temperatures, and quick access to Vilter compressor replacement parts (within two days).

But the most important benefit is the restored quality and reliability of the colosseum’s ice arena. “For facility managers, ice quality is the top priority above all else,” Zembo said. “Now, they have assurance knowing their most critical asset — the sheet of ice —will be usable when they need it most.”

The upgraded refrigeration system removed the facility’s lingering ice quality concerns, giving the Calumet Colosseum a strong foundation on which to continue its legacy. As facility managers began using the Site Supervisor control system, they quickly discovered a suite of powerful tools for them to ensure ice rink quality and drive energy savings. 

“With remote monitoring, reliable alarming, text notification, and continuous commissioning capabilities, facility managers are much more confident in their ability to maintain ice quality,” said Zembo.