As you enter the new Red Deer Curling Centre it’s easy to see the improvements from the 12 sheets of ice to the expanded lounge area on the second floor but behind a door on the west side of the centre lies the heartbeat of the entire operation.
“I can control the ice plant computer from my home,” stated ice maker Wade Thurber. The plant looks to be something created by the folks at NASA and Thurber says there have been a few glitches in the early going but generally it’s running more efficiently than most plants.
“It’s doing its job and we’re just tweaking a few things.”
Both Thurber and the creator of the plant can go on line in order to check the history for each day since it was fired up back in October 2012 to create the best ice possible for the curlers.
While the ice plant is a major part of the operation, the rest of the building needs to be looked at as well in order for the centre to operate smoothly.
“Putting it all together like a recipe and making it work,” said Thurber. “It’s been nice because we have the ability to control our environment – we could never do that before.”
What was happening outside weather-wise was always a concern as he had to keep a close eye on temperature changes to make the needed adjustments indoors when it came to the ice conditions.
“There are certain air movements out here we’re still dealing with but generally I would say 10 of the 12 sheets are pretty much the same, and the outside one and 12 we’re working on a few issues there but we’ll get through them and hopefully have all 12 sheets running the same.”
Nineteen-year-old Brittany Tran, a member of last year’s Canadian Junior champs has called the centre home since she started the game 13 years ago and she likes what she sees with the multi-million dollar makeover.
“It’s definitely a change in the atmosphere here,” she said.
Tran added the ice conditions now allow the team to be able to practice basically all the shots needed at their level of competition whereas in the past some days the ice was too heavy so working on your draw wasn’t possible because you couldn’t get the rock to the other end, she said.
Thurber says he can change the ice conditions to suit the type of curlers using the centre by adjusting the temperature and how they pebble the ice.
“It’s been fun and we start keeping track and figuring it out and some of the things we did in the old building don’t work in this building and vice versa,” he said. “It’s trial and error, we see what works and what doesn’t work and go from there. We’re always trying to learn.”