The New Jersey Devils succeeded in capturing the Stanley Cup for the 1999-2000 season, but they also succeeded behind the scenes, keeping fans dry and happy inside the Continental Airlines Arena.

With the Stanley Cup finals and the weather heating up in June, engineers at the Continental Airlines Arena faced a special challenge: maintaining ice conditions and low humidity levels inside the arena to ensure optimum playoff conditions during the warmer months.



Warm Weather = Soggy Ice

As weather turns warmer, high humidity affects ice conditions, often causing fog and condensation. The quality of the ice can become soft and wet, slowing the puck and skaters, and a vapor haze can form, lowering spectator visibility and even disrupting play. Munters' DH Division (Amesbury, MA) was hired because of its extensive experience in a number of American industries in providing temporary humidity and moisture control.

In the early 1990s, the arena used an air conditioning system to regulate the environment inside the building. This electric system was costly to operate and did not have enough capacity to control temperature and humidity in an extended hockey season. After careful consideration of its options, arena management decided to install a gas-operated desiccant dehumidification system, which proved to be a much more cost-effective and efficient option.

The arena was the first NHL arena to install Munters units for gas-powered dehumidification.

"Munters was chosen to provide dehumidification equipment because our equipment was the most flexible in terms of size, performance, and configuration," said Brian Simkins, national accounts manager with Munters DH Division.



Moisture and Ice Arenas

Water, condensation, and/or fog on the ice surface can have many adverse effects. The most obvious is vision. It is difficult to see a game through heavy fog. The worst effect, however, is soft ice, which can not only slow the game, but it may also can injure a player.

"A player can take a large gouge out of the ice during a sharp turn if the ice is too soft," said Simkins. "If another player hits the gouge, his skate can easily be thrown off in the opposite direction. This could lead to a fall or, even worse, a serious knee injury."

In fact, several years ago in Boston, during the late season playoffs, humidity levels got so high that fog formed just above the arena floor. Players couldn't see each other and officials couldn't see the puck. As a result, the game had to be postponed.

To combat this problem, the NHL has set standards so that ice arenas maintain conditions of 60°F and 50% rh, or a 38° dewpoint. However, these strict standards are very difficult for mechanical dehumidification to achieve continuously. This is where desiccant dehumidification comes into the picture.

Desiccant systems can be readily designed to maintain these strict conditions and will save money on operating costs because they can be operated by natural gas, which is cheaper than electricity.

To handle the requirements of the 19,040-seat Continental Airlines Arena, four Munters A30-G desiccant dehumidifiers were installed, each capable of delivering 10,000 cu ft of dehumidified air per minute.

The Munters DH units use desiccant technology that is extremely efficient at removing ambient water vapor before it can impact the ice sheet. A main component of the system is the HoneyCombe® desiccant wheel. This dehumidifying wheel acts as a sponge and absorbs moisture as it rotates slowly between the process and exhaust air streams. Moisture extracted from the process air stream into the desiccant wheel is then removed from the desiccant by the heated exhaust air stream.

In order to overcome space limitations at the arena, Munters had to be flexible in figuring out the most effective way to store the dehumidification equipment.

"Equipment location is always the biggest problem to overcome in any retrofit project," said Simkins. "Space is tight, and in almost all cases the equipment cannot be mounted onto the roof. We did a good review of the facility, then decided to split up the systems so we could rig them up to the mezzanine and the catwalk at roof level. The units were finally placed in the corners of the arena to aid in air distribution and allow for space limitations."



Success

The retrofit was a success, according to Simkins. Before the retrofit, moisture was forming on high-dollar seats, after the retrofit, fans were comfortable, just in time for the New Jersey Devils to win the 2000 Stanley Cup. ES