Leduc is a growing community a half hour south of Edmonton, AB. It began life as a Hamlet in the 1880s, became incorporated as a Town in 1906. Crude oil, struck at Leduc No. 1 Oil Well, marked the start of Alberta’s oil and gas industry – in 1947. In 1983, with a population of 12,000 it became a City, and has steadfastly grown into the city of 30,000 it now is.

The year the Great War was declared, the main street in Leduc was a wide dirt path. The population was more than 500. (Harry Bamber photo)

That growth over time is similar to the story of the Leduc Recreation Centre. The LRC began its life humbly enough back in 1978 comprised of an indoor arena (used for rodeos and ice sports), an 6-lane indoor pool and some common areas. Eight years later, a curling club was added and the building maintained its status quo until a leisure pool was added in 2004.

The LRC’s Aquatic Centre

Recreation Needs Assessment: What Do We Need?

The city continued to grow, and with that growth, the demand for recreation and programming accelerated. A needs assessment identified holes in the municipality’s ability to remain competitive, offering recreation services to its growing community (and its ability to attract more residents). The City set out to mitigate four main deficiencies: a shortage of ice time, no field houses, no fitness centre and no indoor track. That lead to the LRC’s major expansion, in 2009.

Major Expansion

The major expansion added an additional two-thirds worth of space to the existing building. That included a twin ice rink, twin field houses, a fitness centre and track, indoor play facilities, child minding facilities, retail spaces, meeting rooms — the list goes on. With so many possibilities, it’s a go-to magnet for Leduc’s residents: even the Mayor, Bob Young, plays in an adult hockey league run out of the centre.

Environmental Sustainability Plan and Recreation Tourism

Recreation, yes, but Leduc wanted more for its city. Like more fiscal responsibility. Better spaces for occupants and building users. Ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

The City developed an environmental sustainability plan to take action on climate change, and, by turning the LRC into green destination (and with the Edmonton International Airport on its doorstep) Leduc had already began to position itself as a leader in recreation tourism.

Sport Tourism promo from the City of Leduc

Bruce Knisley, the City of Leduc’s Facilities Special Projects Manager, was recently featured in a webinar hosted by the MCCAC – the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre – a provincial partnership that’s been helping municipalities lower their greenhouse gas emissions since 2009. In it, Knisley underscores the relationship between the two. In fact, he says their national marketing initiative to attract sporting events to their city is has been become even more attractive because of the energy efficiency components that have been undertaken.

“Having a green facility like the LRC makes it more attractive for national organizations to host events in your community as compared to another community that hasn’t done those sorts of things,” Knisley explains.

And those achievements are because of the progressive nature of the Leduc’s city council.

“Our council is very supportive of all of these types of initiatives,” Knisley says. “None of our energy efficiency initiatives in any of our buildings would be moving forward without the support of our council.”

Even before the environmental plan was written, Leduc’s City Council had been making environmental initiatives a priority. For the LRC expansion, that meant innovations like:

  • waterless urinals
  • the most energy efficient lighting available at the time (T5 fluorescents).
  • a heat recovery system from off their ice plant that pre-heated domestic hot water, melted the snow on the sidewalks at the entrance to the facility and in their snow melt pit and in-floor heating for the field houses, the dressing rooms for the new twin arenas, hallways and common areas.

All of which were quite the achievements back in 2009.

The needs assessment had been fulfilled, the LRC was complete, but the City didn’t stop there. Now they turned their attention to the older parts of the building, to get those up to snuff.

Insulation, BAS, Solar…

“We needed to replace the roof for the original swimming pool,” Knisley explains. “So when we did that, we improved the insulation and took it from about an R4 and bumped it up to R20, saving energy there.” Heat recovery units were installed on the original ice plant so they could utilize waste heat for dehumidification. That made a difference to the amount of fogging on the glass and in the arena, especially evident in the fall and spring.

Also enhanced were the facility’s building automation components, which Knisley insists is a big energy saver.

“Building Automation Systems save us an enormous amount of energy. They’re making adjustments and taking control of the building when an operator isn’t handy,” he says.

The Biggest Solar Array North of Vegas

On August 8th, 2016, the city’s pride and joy, the 1.14 MW solar array on the roof of the LRC, started generating electricity. Made up of 3,622 modules, it produces about 15% of the power needed to run the LRC. The City of Leduc was first in line to benefit from funding through the MCCAC’s Alberta Solar Municipal Program which pays up to $1.5 million, depending on the size of the project.

Carson Ryan, the City’s Facilities Manager, makes no bones about the City’s quest to lower energy and water use, and finding alternatives to being on the grid. Ryan says the LRC had the largest solar array north of Las Vegas when it started generating electricity: it’s the size of four and a half NHL-sized rinks — and it’s expected to be expanded — even bigger — soon.

Most of the LRC’s roof will be covered in solar panels. They currently take up the space of 4 1/2 NHL-sized rinks.

That expansion will come when solar panels are be added to the original arena, which is undergoing structural modifications to be sure it can withstand the weight of the additional solar expansion. Along with the structural work, the City is taking the opportunity to add more insulation to the roof at the same time.

Work underway at the LRC's Sobey Arena
Work underway at the LRC’s Sobeys Performance Arena

How the solar array is performing is upfront-and-centre for all users of the LRC. Dedicated TV monitors throughout the public areas show, in real time, the amount of energy that is being generated as well as life time statistics around total generation and carbon reductions. That’s in addition to the typical info you’d expect on those screens, like scheduling, which team is assigned to which locker room, and what time they play and on where.

The adiabatic fluid cooler saved Leduc $20K
in water costs in 2019

In the past couple of years, there have been more improvements. An energy-efficient ice plant was installed with better operating characteristics; one of their cooling towers was replaced by an adiabatic fluid cooler which is saving them water and electricity. Knisley says the cooler saved about $20,000 in avoided water costs last year.

Energy Audits

“Energy audits were completed on all of our city buildings, giving us details of what can be done and how much can be saved,” Knisley explains. “The program we used actually comes with some guarantees that we will actually hit the targets that have been proposed.”

Smart LEDs and TSN

Converting the lighting to LED for a building this size was no small feat — and doing it well isn’t always achieved. But the staff at the LRC knew exactly what they wanted and what they wanted is what they got — even though it cost more than a typical one-for-one replacement. The LED lighting redesign and retrofit cost $900,000 resulting in a smart LED system that is computer controlled and that can isolate any light above the surface.

That helps the sports tourism component really shine.

Ryan explains that as a centre for sports tourism, (check out that link to see the long list of events that have stood out) Leduc is set up to bid on and host sporting events with a wide variety of provincial, national and world events, and it does. In 2019, for example, the LRC hosted the Canadian Curling Club Championships. That event was covered by TSN.

And we all know that good TV needs good lighting.

“TSN said they were getting glare from one of the LEDs in the arena above the ice and asked if there was any way we could turn off that one light,” Ryan recalls. “We went into our lighting program and isolated that light with the controls. It took about a minute! We didn’t need any scissor lifts, isolating that LED didn’t effect all the other lights in the row, it was absolutely perfect.”

In addition to isolating particular lights and turning them on or off, the team at the LRC is able to dim the lights, which comes in handy for sports like figure skating. It has also reduced their operating costs, and their carbon footprint. It’s also helping to achieve the goals set out in the City’s environmental sustainability plan.

Curling – another sports tourism event at the LRC

The projected annual savings by going to LEDs is over $68K, with 593 tonnes CO2eq – being the annual reduction in GHG emissions.

And they’re not stopping there. The City has a shopping list of energy efficiency improvements they’ll be tackling next — and one of those improvements includes REALice floodwater treatment technology for their ice arenas to let them use colder water to maintain their ice. Those will also benefit from grant money from the MCCAC’s REC program. (Through the MCCAC’s REC program, the MCCAC offers incentives of up to 75% of the cost of approved energy-efficiency methods, or a buy-down to 1 year ROI (whichever is lower) up to a maximum of $750,000 per municipality. The MCCAC has other programs, too, such as contributing to the cost of electric vehicles, which the City of Leduc has also benefitted. Check out all the programs here.)

Each energy-efficiency method implemented by the City fits Leduc’s criteria of making it more fiscally responsible, improving the space for occupants and building users, and reducing the building’s carbon footprint. Knisley says the City of Leduc is always open to potential new energy efficiency projects — and thinks other municipalities should be too.

Start with Low-Hanging Fruit

Need a starting point for energy efficiency improvements? Knisley says start with the low-hanging fruit.

“Some of the low-hanging fruit is always a good place to start,” Knisley says. “I do like the auditing process with an energy performance company, it does give you the opportunity to leverage the payback from some of that low-hanging fruit. And you can utilize their expertise and engineering skills to do some of the less lucrative items that will actually save you money over time with less maintenance.”