Ice-making system could be on last legs

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Sunday, March 8, 2009
— Richard Wanless said somebody should kiss the old refrigeration system that makes the ice at the Janesville Ice Skating Center.

“Look at how many years that thing has run,” Wanless said.

He works for Era Refrigeration of Madison and is the man who keeps the system going.

“It’s done super, but I know that the day of reckoning is in the future.”

Wanless said he told a consultant five years ago that it wouldn’t last another five.

The ice arena was built in 1975.

“That stuff is original stuff.”

A replacement system would cost $600,000 to $700,000. All the repairs needed at the ice arena could total $1.5 million.

The system is not only old, it uses a type of Freon the government is phasing out, Wanless said.

Janesville’s system is a bunch of steel pipes buried in concrete and is one of the few of its type still operating.

Newer systems use glycol and plastic tubing.

“The people in the rink business find it very unusual that we still have one up and running and working,” Wanless said.

“Some of the stuff in the system is so outdated we can’t get parts for it,” he said.

Wanless once drove to Mauston to get a replacement part.

He thinks the rink has insulation problems. A layer of insulation sits under the concrete floor and the pipes over a bed of sand and gravel.

One area of the rink is difficult to make ice, and Wanless thinks some of the subfloor has washed or fallen away and the insulation is gone.

A subfloor heating system no longer works. Its purpose was to keep frost from forming under the concrete slab so ice wouldn’t push up the slab, causing it to heave, break and fracture the embedded pipes.

“It’s just starting to show signs that we got some big trouble coming,” he said.

And when it goes, it won’t be a five-minute fix, he said.

“It’s major.

“If you broke a pipe, you’re out of business. There’s probably no way to get at it. That’s been the fear. Every failure of this design of rink has basically (happened) because of floor failures in the piping system.”

Last updated: 9:55 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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