The Chetwynd and Area Recreation Centre captures your attention as you pass through town. It should. It’s our largest public building and an attractive asset to our community. But there’s more than meets the eye. Concealed behind innocent-looking doors are massive machines that most people never see. They are the machines that warm the water, cool the ice, and move the air – among other critical functions. They are the components of the building that add enormously to the cost of construction and operation – the heart and lungs of the Rec Centre.
One of the perks of being your Mayor is the opportunity to take a mechanical-room tour of the Rec Centre. I took it with your Director of Parks and Recreation, Randy Rusjan, as my guide. It would be possible to buy a year’s pass to the pool, waterslide, and hot tub, use it up to the last drop, and have no idea what it takes to keep the water warm and pathogen-free, but it’s much more satisfying to do it with a small idea of how the systems work and work together. Thanks for the tour, Randy.
Well, for starters, there’s a gentle, moss-covered giant chained to a post in a dark, locked, backroom. Gentle Giant sends tons of water crashing into the pool on command from the attendant. Yes, I’m sure that’s what I saw.
Let’s leave the complaisant giant for now and go to the far end of the complex, the refrigeration plant. Here we’ll find a real giant, a machine powered by two six-cylinder compressors, each spun by a 100-horse electric motor. This is the unit that produces the cold that makes the ice for the hockey and curling arenas. It’s muscular, noisy, twenty feet long, ten feet high, and just as wide – pumps, gauges, tanks, and motors circulating coolant just beneath the surfaces of the arenas. No, the ice doesn’t appear by magic when the season arrives. We are required by law to have BC Power Engineers, or Refrigeration Operators, or Ice Facility Operators who know what to do and how to keep you safe while they do it.
Dragging myself away from the refrigeration plant, I follow Randy to the last-December-upgraded ventilation system for the refrigeration room and the new-and-improved alarm system for ice temperature. Because ice temperature is critical – skaters and curlers know that the surface of the ice must be just the right hardness for optimal skating – it is necessary to track the performance of the refrigeration plant through ice temperature.
Randy’s moving on though I could linger longer studying the valves, gauges, and piping. We’re now in the control room for the dry sprinklers installed during the recent expansion of the complex. Did I say dry sprinklers? Indeed.
Let’s leave it there for now. I’ll revisit the Rec Centre to walk with you through more of the magical mechanical mechanisms that keep swimmers wet and skaters cold while others climb, peddle, and pant.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor