BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — When “Ice at Canalside” opened with much fanfare two weeks ago, it was hailed as a link between the Erie Canal’s rich history, and the bright future of Buffalo’s waterfront.
But within days Canalside’s newest feature was closed due to warm temperatures, disappointing many skaters. The new rink was closed for 5 days last week — more days than it was open.
With temperatures plunging well below freezing this week, the weather is not expected to be a factor at Canalside, so Stephanie Biggie of Pendleton and Bri Bartholomew of Lancaster laced up their skates with a friend from Erie, PA.
“I’m excited, but it is a little cold, so hopefully we will warm up,” said Biggie. Bartholomew was just pleased they would be following through on their plans
“We are the only people here,” she said.
But it was more than the warm weather that shut down the ice rink according to Tom Dee, president of the Erie Canal Development Corporation.
“Rain is an absolute killer for us. The temperature is right there. Wind is right there, and sunshine is right there. So a combination of those four can be lethal for us.”
Canal officials met Monday to review plans for improving the refrigeration equipment at Canalside, known as “chillers”, to keep skaters on the ice at warmer temperatures.
The rink’s designer has suggested boosting power to move the coolant through the miles of pipe more efficiently, while keeping the ethylene glycol itself cooler.
“It’s not a major chiller that we are replacing. It is a simple modification inside the pumps, inside the chillers, inside the piping itself.”
But Dee says the improvements have their limits.
“We don’t want to overdo anything that is going to cost extra money that we don’t need to spend. We want to keep it as small as can be, and just do what we have to do.”
The Canalside chief says they could add more power to keep the ice frozen at even higher temperatures, but the cost of electricity would be prohibitive.
“The electric meter would be whirling off the chart, so we don’t want to even consider something like that. We want to get this functioning for a Buffalo winter.”
Despite the 5 days the canal was off limits to skaters, last week, Dee said rinks have been open to skaters 13 days out of a possible 19 days, bringing 20,000 visitors down to Canalside to try out the new feature.