Facility Profile - September 2002
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Dual Cool

Apex Center Ice Arena in Arvada, Colo.

By Margaret Ahrweiler

Could there be even more to this place? In the final story in a three-part profile on The Apex Center, we examine its ice arena.

With its emphasis on skiing, much of the country thinks snow when it comes to Colorado. But for residents of Arvada, Colo., ice is nice—especially now that they can enjoy a dual rink skating center that’s part of the 168,500-square-foot Apex Center, one of the country’s largest public recreation centers.

Opened in September 2000 by the North Jeffco Park and Recreation District, the Apex Center provides a mother lode of recreation opportunities to the approximately 100,000 residents of this Denver suburb. But the center really owes its existence to its ice rinks. When planning for the new center began in 1996, the district identified ice rinks as a high-priority need. North Jeffco’s sole rink was more than 25 years old, in need of renovation and consistently booked solid. North Jeffco officials wanted an ice center that could accommodate several interests: hockey league play, figure skating lessons and competitions, and drop-in recreational skating.

"We went up to capacity as soon as we opened," says Faith Gregor, Apex Center’s marketing director. "We fill up our ice time about six months in advance, even though two private rinks have opened in the area since we came on line. It was obvious that it was an underserved sport."

The Apex Center devotes more than 61,000 square feet to ice sports and support. It includes two ice rinks, one the regulation 85-by-200-foot National Hockey League size and one the 100-by-200-foot Olympic size. The Olympic size was chosen for maximum flexibility, along with an eye toward the possibility of hockey teams training there for the Olympics in the future, according to George Naoum of Group Naoum Consultants Ltd., the Edmonton, Canada-based ice consultant for the Apex Center. Both rinks feature state-of-the-art lighting and ventilation, a key issue in a building that also houses a large aquatics center.

Support facilities for the rinks include second-floor spectator galleries that seat 850 in Rink One and 250 in Rink Two. Between the two rinks sit 10 locker rooms. A concession area, the Ice Box, offers snacks for skaters and spectators. A 1,200-square-foot party room, located between the ice arena and aquatics center, features a small kitchen and allows the Apex to accommodate profitable children’s parties. Finally, the ice arena features its own entrance and drop/off area separate from the rest of the Apex Center, increasing user convenience and reducing congestion.

When designing the center, Apex planners originally considered the more expensive option of using concrete-bottomed rinks for greater flexibility but realized that the ice would most likely be used year-round, Naoum says, so chose to build on sand instead. Its ammonia-based refrigeration system, which operates 10 percent to 15 percent more efficiently than freon systems, according to Naoum, has a 190-ton capacity and features two compressors. With an eye toward efficiency, the system’s heating pipes, which provide low heat to prevent frost penetration, use waste heat recovered from the refrigerant plant.

Keeping an even temperature on the ice, key to a quality surface, is easy for the Apex arenas, thanks to high-tech infrared thermostats in each rink. An electronic thermostat hanging from the ceiling uses a laser to read the temperature on the ice, so the refrigeration plant can react immediately. The Apex thermostats also can be programmed for a seven-day schedule to take into account different uses of the ice rinks.

And if it’s on ice, it’s at the Apex Center. The ice arena’s busy schedule includes figure skating lessons and competition; various levels of hockey play, including drop-in play for pickup games; and free skate times for several hours every day. What’s more, the Apex Center arena has hosted a number of crowd-drawing ice events, including the Colorado national figure skating championships, national high school hockey championships, and a number of high-level tournaments and ice shows.

Along with serving residents well, the ice arena has been a boon for Apex’s bottom line, too. Gregor says it has helped make the Apex Center a profitable, self-supporting facility despite its size. Ice arena admission runs from $1 for resident children under six to $4.50 for nonresident adults. Skate rentals are $1.50 for residents and $1.75 for nonresidents. Annual passes cost $150 for residents and $175 for nonresidents. A combine annual pass, for both the Apex Center and its ice arenas, ranges from $260 for resident children under six to $675 for nonresident adults. Resident family passes cost $950. The district also charges ice time rental fees to groups using the arenas, which often are busy before the sun rises.

"You see groups coming in for practice time at 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., and these are kids," Gregor says. "If they’re willing to do that, you know it’s something they really want."

For more information

Group Naoum Consultants Ltd.: 780-488-4714

North Jeffco Park and Recreation District: 303-424-2739