I’ve lived in places where the calc in the water was so profound, the shower walls would be perpetually coated with its chalky white residue. Showers are obvious victims of lime scale — but other victims include arenas and ice resurfacers too. Here’s a story about both — and how the Spartan Arena got rid of their calc-ridden slow ice, for good.

I first talked to Steven Wolf and Dave Manfredi of Castleton University’s Spartan Arena back in May, 2016. This Vermont arena was one of the first US arenas to have installed a REALice System — and I called them to find out what they thought about it. REALice is a device that takes the place of needing to use extremely hot water to resurface the ice — a real energy saver. But it also has an effect on lime scale and I was told that was something they had been, plagued with, so  I was curious to hear what they had to say.

I found out that their real reason for installing REALice was because they had slow ice. Now, I’ve heard of different kinds of ice – hard ice, soft ice, wet ice, dry ice, brittle ice – but slow ice is what the Spartan Arena had.

Steve, who’s been the Director of the arena since 2010, is a local and had grown up skating at the arena. And he knew about the ice before he ever started working there.

“I had never really liked the ice surface to skate on – even before Castleton acquired the arena,” says Wolf, who comes from Rutland, where the Spartan arena is located — a stone’s throw from Castleton,  VT.

“And I wasn’t the only one who felt that way,” he says. “I asked Dave (Manfredi), our operations manager, as well as the players on the college team what their opinion of the ice was. Everyone felt there was room for improvement. We just had to determine what was causing the ice to be slow.”

Slow Ice

The Spartan Arena staff had done pretty much everything they could to make the ice better. But nothing seemed to be helping. Their source water is well water — with a high calcium count. Wolf and Manfredi determined that calc was building up in the ice, causing it to create the slower surface. And that surface seemed to be even slower still when they used extremely hot water to resurface the ice.

They started looking at different water treatment options, which included REALice. REALice would help them overcome their calc problem. Because of the rapid spinning inside the valve, the soluble lime crystals within the water end up being ineffective, being changed from calcite to aragonite. This means the crystals don’t cling to each other anymore — or to anything else. It also has an effect on existing lime scale buildups, making them disappear. These effects can be seen on the back of the resurfacer where the paint shines where lime scale residue used to be, or by clean resurfacer room floors, where powdery limescale drips used to form. No one expected there to be a build up in the tank of the resurfacer, but that part of the story comes a little further down…

Speed Skating at Iowa State’s Ames Arena

That was in 2011 and, at that time, the only REALice installation in the US was at Iowa State University at the Ames/ ISU Arena. Dave, a former speed skating champion, packed his skates, hopped on a plane and went Ames to try out their ice to see what it felt like.

It was the end of the season and, as fate would have it, Ames’ resurfacer had broken down and their ice was dirty.  Undeterred, Dave strapped on his skates and went for a tour. Under his blades, he liked what he felt. And then he went asking hockey players in the men’s league there what they thought about the ice. They had only good things to say. Dave came back to Vermont with two thumbs up for installing the REALice system.

Efficiency Vermont

In researching a solution for their rink, their goal was to have better ice, period. But REALice gave them an additional benefit too: energy savings from not having to use extremely hot water to resurface their ice. They contacted Efficiency Vermont to see if there would be incentives coming their way with a REALice installation. There were. They decided to make the purchase and installed the REALice System.

For the next three seasons, they used untempered, REALice-treated water in their ice resurfacer 80% of the time. The remaining 20%, they would use a hot water mix, resurfacing with water between 80-100°F . Wolf says they did that after heavy user groups “for a better spread on the ice.” Their ice was better, but he says that milkiness never really disappeared.

Then, in their 4th season with REALice, they had another idea.

The Resurfacer

Seven years before the REALice installation was made, a brand new resurfacer began its work life at the Spartan Arena. For those seven years, the limescale from the arena’s well water kept building up inside of the resurfacer’s tank — we know that now. When they built the ice using the REALice handheld nozzle, a part of the REALice System, their ice was clear and hard. But when they used the resurfacer, that’s when they saw the milkiness in the water. The culprit had to be in the tank.

How could they be sure?

What’s In Your Tank?

To see inside, they scoped the tank from a fill pipe that already existed and saw that it was, pardon the pun, chalk-er block full of calc.. To get at that buildup, Dave made an even larger opening  to get better access to the inside of their resurfacer’s aluminum tank.

“I scraped out half of a 5-gallon bucket of lime scale from the walls and the floor of the tank. And we put in vinegar and let it soak. And we drained it, power sprayed it. We did what we needed to get it clean.”

Now, with a resurfacer that’s clean, both inside and out, Manfredi and Wolf started making ice for the 2016-17 season.  I called them to find out how it was going.

“Everything,” Steve tells me, “is great!”

The 5th Season

This is the Spartan Arena’s 5th season using REALice. Their ice is now back in and Steve tells me it’s better than it has ever been before.

“Our ice isn’t gritty anymore. It feels better — stronger than before. And it’s definitely clearer than anything we’ve ever seen before. Cleaning out our tank really seems to have helped.”

These aren’t the only differences, either.

We’ve have our setpoint now at 22°F – a full degree higher than last year.

-Steve Wolf

“We’ve have our setpoint now at 22°F – a full degree higher than last year.” That is a whopping 3°F higher than what it was when they first installed the REALice unit. “And we don’t need to do a hot water mix anymore — even after a two-hour practice by our heavy users,” says Wolf. “The ice is strong and doesn’t get beat up the way it used to. We don’t even need to dry shave it as often.”

Wolf and Manfredi will keep watching their ice — and will check inside their tank from time to time, just to be sure the calc build-up doesn’t return. But with a clean tank and REALice-treated water being used, they don’t think it will.

“So far, so good,” Wolf says. “We’re seeing a big, significant different difference in our ice.”