They can finally turn the lights off in the Yellow Grass rink.
New lighting and insulation have rejuvenated a rink built over six decades ago.
For a long time, they weren't able to turn off the lights over the ice surface in the Yellow Grass Wheatland Communiplex.
"The old fluorescent fixtures, we couldn't shut them off, because we kept blowing things up when we turned them back on," said rink board president Alan Whitrow."
Wait a second. You'd blow things up?
"We'd blow bulbs, we'd burn out the tips, the ends," he explained. "Sometimes the ballast would go. It was just an issue that they were old, they were worn out, the fixtures were done.
"From the middle of October to the second week of March, the lights were on 24 hours a day."
That used up a lot of electricity, and they went through a lot of light bulbs.
The rink was built in 1948. Last year, with the help of infrastructure grants from the federal and provincial governments, the community made a number of upgrades, including the installation of new energy-efficient lighting.
Whitrow says the difference is amazing.
"It's probably doubled the lighting with the same number of fixtures," he said. "There's nobody that walks into the rink that doesn't marvel at the brightness."
Even better, they are now able to turn the lights off in the rink when there's no one on the ice.
Along with the new lighting, wiring and associated electrical work, the upgrades included new insulation which helps keep the ice at a consistent temperature, despite the fluctuations in temperature outside. Before the upgrades, if the outside temperature dropped too low, the ice would crack. If the temperature rose, it would melt.
"In previous years, it wouldn't be uncommon to look at the ice plant log and see that it had been running for close to 20 hours a day on days when the temperature was plus five or six outside," Whitrow said. "This year, we had a stint of that, and the plant ran for five, six hours a day. That's telling you that the insulation is probably knocking 14, 15 hours of running time off that plant."
The insulation will also reflect heat from the sun back into the trusses in the roof which, according to Whitrow, "have been mostly damp for 60 years, just because it never really gets a chance to dry up in there."
Eliminating that moisture in the roof will help prolong the life of the structure.
As part of the upgrades, the rink is also getting a renovated Zamboni room and two new dressing rooms.
The rink has four dressing rooms in total, but two of them were cramped, had no shower or washroom facilities, and located up a set of stairs that was tough to navigate for youngsters carrying massive bags of hockey equipment.
Those two dressing rooms will be replaced by two new ones on the main level, which will have more will have more space, plus showers and washrooms.
The upgrades to the Yellow Grass rink were made possible through the Recreational Infrastructure Canada (RInC) program.
Through RInC, the federal and provincial governments each contributed $66,666 to the improvements. The town contributed an additional $66,666.
"These upgrades wouldn't have happened without this," Whitrow said, adding the improvements, once complete, will make the Yellow Grass Wheatland Communiplex "a top-notch facility to come to, regardless of the fact that it's 60 years old."