Benchmarking is a stake-in-the-ground to show how you’re doing, and lets you look back in time to see how you’ve been. For indoor ice rinks, benchmarking against other rinks is next to impossible to do: no two rinks are alike, they have their own unique variables which impact everything from the kilowatt hours used to the number of blade changes.

Benchmarking can be done with an incredibly easy equation. It will let you compare this month, season or year, to another point in time, like last month, last season or last year. If you run an arena and read this article, you’ll want to try this to see how you’re doing. And did I say it’s EASY? Yes! You can do the math with a pencil and paper, but it’s much better if you put that data into a spreadsheet and get it to do all the heavy lifting for you. And once you do, make a point to use it every month to see where you’re at. It can even raise flags to show you something’s wrong. What that something is will need investigation from you, but it could be anything from the ice being too thick, or sales being too low.

In fact, it’s a tool you can use to get buy-in from your owner, board or council to do more.

Not My Equation

But before I tell you what you need and how to do it, I have to tell you: it’s not my equation.

No, it’s not mine, but I think it’s gold, and talk about it often, especially to arena managers.

Some embrace it, say it makes sense, relieved to find something so straightforward that they can hang their hat on. Fewer yet, I’ve learned, actually have access to the data they need to gauge the impact any changes to the arena have made. Data like kWh of electricity, Therms of natural gas, cubic gallons of water, litres of propane and the monthly/seasonal/yearly dollar value of each. 

Don’t get me wrong. ALL of those data points are important. So is making a note of new equipment, overhauls, and incidents (including competitor arenas near you opening, or closing, their doors — events that might impact your paid user group hours). By tracking, you can see what the real impact was of that brine pump failure that made you lose your ice in 2022. These events impact the arena and are important to track so you, or your replacement, can look back in time and understand what happened.

The Miles to the Gallon of Ice Rinks

Most relevant, though, is this simple ratio that strips away the clutter and leaves behind the bare naked truth. It’s the miles to the gallon (or litres/100 kilometres) of ice rinks. This calculation works for every rink. Best yet, it’s easily understood whether you’ve got a Ferrari or a Fiat, a Pontiac or a Peugeot. I call it “The Quinton Equation”.

The Quinton Equation

The “Quinton Equation” comes from Les Quinton, Supervisor of Facilities in Diamond Valley, AB. Quinton will retire at the end of this year after 25 years serving that municipality. When he retires, his successor will have printed instructions on what needs to be done to run the facility until 2050. That’s how committed — and detailed — Les is. He’s a computer wizard, a master of spreadsheets and he likes to find ways to lower costs for his municipality, and to find ways to make the job easier the operations team.

Les is an outlier who is meticulous, researches before making decisions, and constantly looks for better ways. He’s also been described by Green Energy Futures as the “MacGyver of community green energy” – another read that’s worth your time.

More with Les

Les began working at the Oilfields Regional Arena in 1997 when it was a 7-month single pad with an undersized ice plant. Today it’s an 8-month single-pad with an undersized ice plant with a covered refrigerated outdoor rink. So it’s bigger. And it’s way more efficient. Compared to 1998 when Les started tracking, the arena annually uses 800 GJ less natural gas, 73,000 kWh less electricity, 364,000 less gallons of water — and the refrigeration system operates 781 hours less annually. In terms of cash outlay, their electric bill is 57% less than what it would have been if they followed a “Business As Usual” model.

57% Lower: What that Looks Like

Let’s convert that into cash for a rink in Ontario or Massachusetts. If you’re paying 18¢/kWh for your seasonal rink and it’s costing $205,000 in electricity, doing what Les did means that bill would shrink down to $117,550. A reduction like that will give you some serious negotiation power to keep improving. You CAN do better.

Les Quinton at the Oilfields Regional Arena in Diamond Valley, AB
Les Quinton, Supervisor of Facilities at the Town of Diamond Valley, AB.

Those savings may seem hard to fathom, especially with the same ice plant all these years later! But that’s what he’s been able to accomplish. And that additional month? Just for the record, it’s not a winter month that was magically added to the calendar. They’re doing much more with less, or rather, doing more with Les. And Les has the data to prove it.


Les will tell you that their success with energy efficiency is because of tracking what they do.

“If you don’t know where you’ve come from, how do you know where you’re going?”

“If you don’t know where you’ve come from, how do you know where you’re going?” That’s one of the Les Quinton-isms I hear nearly every time I talk to him. It’s especially true with energy efficient measures. Dollar amounts aren’t a reliable gauge, lower usage may throw you into a lower rate class with higher rates. Without tracking, it’s hard to remember what happened when, or what happened after. Tracking will let you see what you’ve tried — and if it worked.

In the end, the Quinton Equation will show you how your indoor ice rink is doing and give you a number, or numbers, to beat.

How It’s Calculated and What It Means

The Quinton Equation is a ratio comparing the total run time hours of the compressors with paid user group hours over a particular period of time. It can tracked by the month, the season or the year — but monthly tracking will show if something is going wrong.

Quinton’s highest run time hours in a month, 498, were recorded in September, 1998, at the start of the 1998-99 season. That was a few months into his employment with the Town. “Start-up” requires a huge refrigeration demand as the ice is being built. No user paid user groups get to use the ice until it reaches its target thickness. Still, that month, 119.25 hours of paid user groups used the arena. That resulted in a ratio of 4.18:1 for the month.

The arena first achieved its 1:1 run time to paid user group ratio in 2009

By that year end, with more user groups and less demand, the Quinton Equation balanced out at 1.64:1. Quinton’s first 1:1 ratio occurred in 2009; last year with COVID-19 restrictions impacting adult leagues at the start of 2022, the ratio was 1.16:1.

Plug your numbers into a spreadsheet and see what you get – and share it with me if you’d like. If you’d like a sample spreadsheet that tracks run time in one section, paid user groups in a 2nd section, and the ratio of the two in a third, just let me know and I’ll send you one. One word of advice, though. Don’t be disheartened if you can’t get to that 1-to-1 ratio right away. Quinton has overseen many energy efficiency improvements since 1998 that got them to where they are today. Those include:

  • sealing the building envelope (1998)
  • insulating the walls (2002)
  • installing a low-E ceiling (2003)
  • installing a oversized compression valve (2005)
  • installation of Guest Automation Inc.‘s Intelligent Rink Energy Management Control System (2010)
  • installation of a dehumidifier (2015)
  • dehumidifier connected to the energy management control system (2016)
  • installation of a REALice floodwater treatment system (2017)

Overhauls Decreased and Intervals Increased

Along the way, compressor overhauls took place: 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2017 — see an unusual pattern here? You’re right! By increasing the arena’s efficiency, there were fewer overhauls and the time between overhauls increased! And that means savings – and expanding the life of the equipment.

As the Romans know, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be patient. Budget constraints often mean you can’t achieve results like this in one go. By making a start and benchmarking your arena using the Quinton Equation, you can see where you’ve been, make plans for the future, and see how those implementations, and challenges, impact the arena. For the better.