News from the Auld Barn
With confirmation recently of the first half dozen players returning to the Flyers for the 2022/23 campaign and as we reach the mid-point of summer, the other season which is not the hockey season, anticipation builds for what lies ahead before hockey returns in a little over 9 weeks time.
Before then however there is other important work happening, vital in fact, and without which the forthcoming fixture announcements, future signing news, even plans to return to ice skate and play curling would all be for nothing. This is the time of the year that is just as busy, if not busier, in the calendars of the rink staff and the last few weeks has proven to be an extra intense time.
Returning the rink to an operational basis following the Covid shutdown was a huge undertaking with old and new procedures to be implemented. One particular challenge at the start of last season was a fault that had developed in the ice plant which thankfully throughout the season only impacted a couple of small areas of the ice pad, specifically the corner in which the Flyers emerge from their dressing room. There was a leak from one sections of pipe which resulted in some running repairs to ensure that the doors were ready to open not just for hockey but the much anticipated return for all ice users. This summer there was no question that the problem had to be addressed head on and install a permanent solution that should hopefully future proof the ice pad for many decades to come.
Ice Rink Manager Billy Hanafin and his team have been hard at it over the last few weeks as they set about removing the final pieces of the original ice plant installation that dates back to the opening in 1938. Billy explained that the 264 pipes that run the length of the pad had all been replaced in the mid 1980's, replacing metal with plastic and a new concrete floor had been laid. It left however the end joints that connect the pipes in a flow and return system (think along the lines of how your radiators work in a central heating system) as the original metal fittings.
The issue at the start of last season came from one such end pieces (as can be seen opposite and so it's been a labour over the last few weeks for Billy and his staff breaking through the concrete floor, painstakingly so to avoid damaging the plastic pipe lengths to almost excavate the metal joins and replace with plastic components.
This is how things currently look:
Pictured below at the other end of the rink, the Curlers bar end, the pipework that is driven by the plant room and which feeds the pipes under the ice pad has also been replaced. This has also seen the installation of individual valves which will allow any air to be more easily removed from the system when the need arises - stay on that central heating theme and imagine bleeding individual radiators in your home.
In what is a six figure project there lies ahead still a few weeks of work to get the installation ready before 17,000 litres of brine will be pumped through the circa 10 miles of pipes (I did the maths - 264 pipes times 200 feet lengths) in readiness for the return of ice in early autumn. Talking of maths Billy did say that he used some calculus to determine the exact points of where the pipes will be once they are buried again under the concrete which will allow any future problem to be pinpointed more precisely. How many of us remember calculus at school but then have never used it in our working lives? - if so then running an ice plant probably isn't something that fits your or my skill set.
Whilst this has been a major undertaking this summer it's not the only changes taking place in the Auld Barn and we'll catch up with Billy and his guys later to find out what else has been keeping them busy.
Courtesy of he Fife Free Press below are a couple of images from the installation of the ice plant when the rink was being built in 1938.