SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Olympic venues were state-of-the-art for the 2002 Winter Games.
Thanks to a multi-million dollar upgrade at Utah Olympic Park, some facilities are like new and are already paying for themselves in record time.
“This is turn number four. This is your problem child. The refrigerant didn’t make it to the top,” Colin Hilton told Deanie Wimmer of KSL.
The problem was no ice at the top of the track.
“The refrigerant didn’t make it to the top,” said Hilton, who works at ETC Group Services in Utah.
The team of specialists gathered at the 2002 Olympic luge, bobsleigh and skeleton system to work on a $5 million upgrade.
“We are problem solvers,” said Hilton.
ETC Chief Executive Robert Hooper said: “I found that a few things needed updating.”
It started with the refrigeration system, which controls the ammonia needed to make ice.
“The team would have to come here and dig through the snow,” said ETC engineer Jim Crockett.
All 110 valves along the route were operated by hand. Crockett said, “And try to make an adjustment at arm’s length.”
Now it works with an app. “Much easier and much more precise,” added Crockett.
Much of the challenge was sourcing materials; It’s not like they can run to Home Depot.
“It was delayed due to supply chain issues and the parts needed for the upgrade,” explained Jared Wilson, the project manager. “We saw that some things didn’t come in, so we had to adapt to that.”
The actual ice is just as important as the venue. There is a lot of science behind it. You have to make sure the ice on the walls is stable and the ice in the middle is fast.
“These sleds are coming down. What are they hitting – 85 mph?” said ETC’s Glen Anderson. “So if there isn’t a solid ice foundation, things break down, you have a sled that could easily lose control and have an accident.”
Besides the new technology, they also use low tech to build 15 layers of smooth ice.
Anderson illustrated with a spray bottle.
“They call it squirting, spraying it to freeze.”
The true test of this new upgrade isn’t just in its efficiency.
“We lost performance as our equipment began to age,” said Calum Clark, chief operating officer of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation.
Teams from all over the world compete in the North America Cup here in Utah until January 23rd.
“From our host nation, the United States, you go with the team to the United States, to small nations that are just getting into the sport, like Vietnam,” Clark said.
Athletes raced to find a way to the Olympics.
“We were blown away by the times the athletes were getting,” Clark said. “We broke records in both bobsleigh and luge.”
According to the organizers, the investment will pay off in the next 20 years.