Estonia's ice rinks to operate in cost-saving mode this winter

Ice skating in Tallinn
Ice skating in Tallinn Source: Tallinn City Government.

Both indoor and outdoor ice rinks will have shorter opening hours in the upcoming winter season. Due to high energy prices, some rinks will stop operating earlier than usual, when spring arrives.

According to Tallinn Deputy Mayor Tanel Kiik (Center), the capital's ice rinks, as well as the Tondiraba skating hall, will be operating in cost-saving mode this winter.

"We will open the ice rink on Harju tänav, as well as those in Männi Park, Nõmme High School Park and Tondiraba Park. As the energy consumption levels for public skating rinks is highest in spring, when temperatures also increase, we will close them earlier than usual (this time), instead of keeping them open until the end of March," said Kiik.

The new Tondiraba and Männi Park ice halls have been built with energy efficiency in mind, said Kiik. "It means that the freezing pipes (series of pipes under the ice containing used to maintain freezing temperatures - ed.) of these rinks are built on concrete structures, creating thinner and better quality ice, and therefore saving energy," said Kiik.

Kiik added, that the city had already raised prices at Tondiraba Ice Hall from September 1, as part of the effort to recoup costs, with other measures also set to be introduced to increase savings. Only one of Tondiraba Ice Hall's rinks will be in use during off-peak hours for instance, and morning opening hours have also been reduced.

Astri Arena: we've also thought about closing down.

Energy saving is also an issue for privately owned ice rinks such as Astri Arena, which operates two rinks in Tartu, one in the Lõunakeskus shopping mall and the other nearby.

"Electricity accounts for 45-55 percent of the total cost of (running) our ice rinks," said Triin Hütt, CEO of Astri Arena. "The majority of that goes into the equipment that generates cold temperatures. Unfortunately, we can't turn off the ice compressors or turn them down to half power, because then the ice would become dangerously soft or melt away altogether," explained Hütt.

Hütt says, that Astri has been working to optimize its electricity consumption as much as possible, by switching to LED lighting as well as ensuring its ice-making equipment is fully up-to-date.

"Like many companies, we are discussing and making calculations about how to survive the fall and winter period, said Hütt. "There are several options on the table, ranging from price increases to closing the ice rink. Closing the ice rinks is definitely the last option, because in addition to our own efforts, we are also counting on the help of the local authorities and the state. The Astri Arena is the only indoor ice rink in the south Estonia region, and closing it would be a huge blow to the sustainability and development of ice sports in Estonia," said Hütt.

The skating season is melting away

Fred Randver, chair of the board of HK Hall, which manages four ice skating parks and the Jeti Ice Arena in Tallinn, also said that the issue of cutting costs, particularly in terms of energy, had been on their agenda for a while.

Randver admitted that the situation is less complicated for outdoor skating rinks than it is for indoor ice halls. "Unlike with indoor rinks, we don't have to ventilate the air or heat large areas. Ice rinks are open during the season when it is cold outside and the sunlight is not a problem. Last year, we opened the Lasnamäe ice-skating rink without having to run the compressor at all, because December was very cold and snowy," said Randver. "We use a lot of snow when we first open the outdoor rinks to save electricity when making the ice. To the same end, all the newer rinks are equipped with more up-to-date and economical refrigeration units," he added.

However, indoor ice rinks are another matter. "They are expensive to manage, especially during the warmer season. The Jeti Ice Arena has been in operation all year round. Since the Tondiraba Ice Hall opened in 2014, the (skating) season at the Jeti Ice Arena has got smaller every year. While last year we opened the rink in November, this year the plan is to open on the second weekend of December. Again, that's because it will be colder and the cost of making ice will be lower," Randver explained.

The Jeti Arena plans to finish its winter season season at the end of February. "This means that the Jeti Arena's 12-month season will have melted down to only two and a half months. The most important change at the Jeti Arena rink this year is that we will stop using gas," Randver said, adding that the company does not plan to introduce any major price increases this winter season.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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