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Potential Sports Center upgrade aims to boost support for parks programming

The Parks and Properties Committee for the Northbrook Park District sees the replacement of the Sports Center’s HVAC system as important in supporting the facility’s programming.

At the Jan. 12 committee meeting, a positive recommendation was passed on to the Board of Commissioners vying for replacement of their existing unit in the Sports Center, citing issues that are irreparable after having sought annual maintenance.

Over the last 4 years, officials have noted issues pertaining to the HVAC system and its cooling tower, or cooling mechanism, leading to high humidity during the summer months for buildings within the complex.

Ed Dalton, director of parks and properties, explained that typically it is the makeup air unit that draws the cool air off the ice rinks to cool down other rooms in the building, but an issue arises at the Sports Center because the cooling tower is undersized.

He said when the summer months roll around, the ice rink surface begins to heat up and when the makeup air unit is drawing that air to go to other buildings, it has a high humidity and so it’s uncomfortable in the other rooms.

“So, the original thought was we need to put in a combination unit that is heating and air conditioning,” Dalton said. “But now when we learn that this cooling tower is actually undersized, it makes sense that if it was properly sized and the ice rink air temperature remained consistent, that it probably would’ve worked as it was designed to cool these other rooms during the hot summer months.”

The existing HVAC system for the facility was installed in 2000, but it was not until recently that officials started seeing issues, narrowed in on the problem’s cause, and sought to correct it.

“The rooftop unit that we are currently going to replace is 16 plus years old,” Dalton said. “The new one will be of higher energy efficiency, so it will cost us less to run this unit.”

He said it is yet to be determined how much more efficient the unit would be or what makes for a properly-sized cooling tower, given the fact that the Park District has yet to hire a consultant and a mechanical engineer to study the situation and finalize purchasing plans.

Officials hope that replacing the HVAC system will boost support for programming at the Park District while better serving the community.

The complex plays host to a number of programs, including skating, hockey and a number of summer camps. With skating being one of the more popular program offerings, the replacement of the unit becomes all the more important, according to Dalton.

“They’ve been real close to having to close the ice rink during the summer months because the ice surface has gotten too soft for the skaters,” he said. “That goes back to the cooling tower issue.”

It is during the summer months that Park District staff note ice surface temperature ranging from 24-27 degrees, which can create soft ice issues, seeing as how hockey pucks may move less freely.

In these cases, personnel at the Sports Center follow a protocol that cuts down the amount of water applied during a resurface to about half to help the ice set up more quickly and allow the refrigeration system to catch up. On a normal day, ice surface temperature will register at 19-23 degrees.

The last time officials closed the rink because of HVAC related issues occurred two years ago.

“Last year was relatively cool temperature wise, so it’s been more noticeable when we have those extended periods of ninety degrees or above with humidity” Dalton said.

He said camps are often held in the Sports Center during the summer months, so more often it is they who are noticing the effects of the unit on the facilities.

Park District officials hope the new system will be installed in time for the weekend of Mother’s Day, when the Park District hosts its annual ice show, Northbrook On Ice.

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