Big News from the Rivers Curling Club
by Sarah Plosker
Republished with Permission
October 28, 2022 - Rivers, MB - The Rivers Curling Club just had new eco-friendly curling rink liners installed at the Riverdale Community Centre. These new liners are a game changer, and will allow the club to save money, reduce the burden on volunteers and allow more time for doing what curlers love best - curling!
Before explaining how these rink liners are eco-friendly, let's back up. The "old way" of making a curling sheet (the long surface of ice on which you curl) is to carefully paint the markings and flood a thin layer of water to seal in the paint. You have to seal it about six times. There's a whole laundry list of issues with this method.
First, those thin layers of ice add up to about an inch or 1 1/4 inches of ice in total. The sheets have virtually no insulation factor, meaning it takes a lot of energy to keep the thick sheets frozen all season long.
Old way, time consuming
Second, the "old way" is a time-consuming process, with four sheets of ice taking as much as 450 man hours to put in. Many rural curling clubs simply cannot afford to pay a crew to do this every year, and it's a lot of work to ask for volunteers.
Finally, the paints used contain all sorts of chemicals, in particular the white paint contains titanium dioxide. According to the Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS), titanium dioxide needs to be disposed of properly, but typically at the end of the season, rinks are simply let to thaw out and then the water (along with the paint) is pushed down the storm drains.
Enter the solution, or rather the "Hack-to-Hack Solution" - an Alberta-based company owned by Kevin Grumetza which prints the liners in Edmonton and installs them all over Canada. No dealing with layer upon layer of thin ice sealing the paint - just flood once to about 1/2 to 5/8 inch thick. The thinner ice takes less energy to keep frozen all season long. If there's a power outage or issue with the refrigeration plant and the ice melts, there's nothing to redo but the water.
Four sheets of ice can be done in 50 man hours, not 450! And no more paint going down the storm drains in the spring. There are well over 1,000 sheets like this in the world, for curling and hockey. One really neat opportunity opened up by the drastic reduction in man hours in setup is the feasibility of summer bonspiels, a curler's dream come true!
Two year cost recovery
While the upfront cost is considerably higher than the "old way" of doing things, the cost recovery is only about two years for the curling sheets, and they last 20-30+years. The Rivers Curling Club executive team took everything into consideration before making the big decision: the overall use of less water, the use of less hydro, helping the plant operations, etc. and decided this was a great opportunity for the community. They also did their due diligence and contacted curling clubs and facilities that have been using the same product for 15 years. It's really an investment that pays for itself in a matter of time.
The owner, Kevin Grumetza, of Alberta, arrived this past Sun. Oct. 16 and was ready to help install the curling sheets at the RCC with volunteer members of the executive. Dave Falkevitch, Dennis Vetch, and Al MacDonald all helped with each sheet, water, and watching the plant. The anticipated time it takes to get the ice ready to use with the new liners is two days, but of course, the first time around takes a bit longer
The Rivers Curling Club used to spend $1,200 per season on ice paint alone, not to mention an untold number of volunteer hours to install. The cost of this project was $23,000. The Club received $2,000 from the Rivers Community Foundation. It took one and a half hours to get the sheets laid to perfection, then another couple to set in the hacks, the divider ropes, and a few other overlays. The Club's caretaker was not available yet, so the ice needed to be scraped and prepared before the first use. This has been done by volunteers. The ice is now ready to play on, taking about half the time as usual.
Now, the most important concern raised is naturally: can we still put a loonie at the centre of the button for good luck using this new process with the digitally printed liners? This reporter was assured by the owner Kevin Grumetza himself that yes, there's no problem at all.
Come on out and throw some rocks on Friday nights, or join a league that best suits your availability. There are lots of options for all ages from youth to as long as you want to curl!