Electricity is in the air at Swift Current, Sask., hockey rink

Big Hill Services owner in Alberta says they sold their very first electric ice resurfacer to Saskatchewan and it’s in Swift Current. City of Swift Current / Supplied

There’s a little electricity in the air at a hockey rink in Swift Current, Sask.

Jody Laye, the owner and president of Big Hill Services & Arena Supplies in Alberta, said it’s the very first and only electric ice resurfacer they’ve sold to the neighbouring province.

“It is kind of exciting. Hopefully, we’ll get a few more in Saskatchewan … in Alberta, we’ve got lots of them and they’ve taken off fairly good in Manitoba, just Saskatchewan just not quite there yet I guess,” he said with a chuckle.

“That’s the first battery that’s made it into Saskatchewan.

“We look after Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, the Territories, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Is my dealership territory.”

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It is currently flooding at Innovation Credit Union iPlex, the home barn of the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos, who are expected to play the upcoming season in Regina.

“We made the plunge into the electric world here this year and it’s been pretty nice to kind of operate and see the benefits from this electric unit,” Chris Pool, the City of Swift Current’s facilities manager, said.

“Since we received it in January, we’ve been running fairly consistently at the facility here with some kind of restricted bookings (due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions) so we haven’t got a full chance to utilize this rig the way we had hoped to but we’ve been using it and testing the waters with it.

Pool said the cost per flood with a propane unit ranged from $2.50 to $3.25 but with their new Olympia Millennium-E, it’s less than 50 cents.

“I think the electric feature is certainly, not only for the efficiency but the environmental aspect of it too. It is kind of a great option for us,” Pool said.

“There’s a special charger that comes with it, but, yeah, it’s a big computer, that charges it up … it’s pretty technical and we haven’t dived deep into it,” Pool said.

“The maintenance time on the unit is quite a bit less, not having any of the, like oil and changes and kind of that sort of maintenance that you’d do regularly on the rig. So this one, we plug it in every 30 floods and it does its own maintenance and we pour a little water in it once a week to maintain the batteries. And other than that, it kind of runs itself — it’s a pretty nice change,” Pool said.

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Pool said the Olympia cost around $195,000 whereas a non-electric was purchased for roughly $138,000 back in 2012.

Laye confirmed a similar price difference compared to non-electric ice resurfacers.

“Just as a rough guess, I would say probably about $50,000 (more for electric) but the maintenance is way less on them. The energy cost to actually run them is pennies on the dollar compared to a fossil, like compared to a propane or natural gas machine,” Laye said.

Meanwhile, one of Pool’s favourite features on the Olympia is the laser.

“It’s a (laser levelling system) … so what it does is it just shoots the beam across the surface and maintains the blade control, which is the shaving mechanism of the machine. It maintains it at a constant level without any operator control,” he said.

“It just keeps the ice at a better level, a more consistent level throughout every flood that you do so … we don’t have to do it manually to kind of fix the ice with low spots and high spots and whatnot that comes from operators. It’s a pretty sweet feature.

“It reduces a lot of your ice maintenance time, which allows us to rent out more of our ice during the week … So when we get back to normal operations of the facility, we should be able to just open up some more ice for our users to have access to.”

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Laye said Big Hill Services strictly sells Olympia but Zamboni Company also manufactures an electric unit.

Swift Current is approximately 230 km west of Regina.

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