Upgrades at Utah’s Olympic Park lead to record times
Jan 17, 2022, 8:34 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 6:28 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Olympic venues were state of the art for the Winter Games in 2002 but problems started to show up over the years.
Thanks to a multi-million-dollar upgrade at Utah Olympic Park, some facilities are like-new again and already paying dividends in record times.
Jim Crockett, ETC Group’s Senior Engineer said one area that needed an upgrade was the top of the track, there was no ice.
“The refrigerant was not making it to the top of the curve,” Crockett explained.
With only two tracks in the country, who you gonna call?
“We are expert problem solvers,” ETC business manager Robert Hooper said.
Utah company ETC Group brought together a team of specialists to get the 2002 luge, bobsled, and skeleton systems a five million dollar update.
“Found out there were a few things that needed to be upgraded,” Hooper said.
It started with that refrigeration system that regulates the ammonia needed to create ice.
“The team would have to come here and dig through snow,” ETC engineer Jim Crockett said.
All 110 valves along the track, were operated by hand. Adjustment needed to be made at arm’s length. Now it’s done with an app and it’s more precise.
Much of the challenge was getting materials; it’s not like they can make a run to Home Depot.
“Due to the supply chain issues and parts needed for the upgrade, it was delayed,” Jared Wilson, the project manager, explained. “We saw that some stuff wasn’t coming in, so we had to adapt to that.”
As important as the venue is, so is the actual ice. There is a lot of science behind it. They have to make sure that the ice on the walls is stable and the ice down the middle is fast.
“You’ve got these sleds coming down. What are they hitting – 85 miles an hour?” ETC’s Glen Anderson said. “So, if there isn’t a solid foundation of ice, things are breaking off, you have a sled that could easily lose control and have a crash.”
Along with the new tech, they also use low-tech to build up 15 layers of smooth ice with a water hose and a sprayer.
“They call it spritzing, spraying it so it will freeze,” Anderson said.
The true test of this new upgrade isn’t just in efficiency.
“We were losing performance as our equipment has begun to age,” Calum Clark, chief operating officer for the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, said.
Teams from all over the world are competing in the North America Cup here in Utah through Jan. 23.
“From our host nation, the U.S. – go Team to USA – to small nations that are just entering the sport like Vietnam,” Clark said.
The athletes raced to find a pathway to the Olympics.
“We were blown away by the times the athletes were achieving,” Clark said. “We were breaking records both in the bobsled and the luge areas.”
Organizers said the investment will keep paying off for the next 20 years.