The Panthers IceDen is a 125,000-sq.ft. multi-use facility that serves as the official practice location of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, in addition to hosting local club and recreational hockey teams and figure skaters.

Florida Panthers IceDen Receives Major Upgrade with Help From Chemours

June 8, 2021
Five-month renovation project included replacing ammonia refrigeration with an air cooled system powered by Opteon™ XP-10 refrigerant.

JACKSONVILLE, FL.  — The Florida Panthers IceDen has resumed full operation after a five-month renovation conducted by Stellar, a fully integrated firm focused on design, engineering, construction, refrigeration and mechanical services worldwide.

The Jacksonville-based firm renovated one of the facility's three ice sheets and fully replaced its corresponding refrigeration system. Stellar crews demolished and replaced the floor pad of the facility's mezzanine ice sheet and removed an existing ammonia refrigeration system that served two sheets, including the mezzanine pad.

Rather than converting the existing refrigeration system, Stellar installed a new air-cooled system powered by Opteon™, the NHL's official refrigerant solution developed by The Chemours Company, a Stellar partner. Opteon™ is a sustainable, reliable and cost-effective refrigerant offering for ice refrigeration chiller systems. It is also nontoxic, nonflammable and has a low global warming potential.

”Chemours was pleased to work with Stellar and the Florida Panthers on this project to provide an alternative refrigerant solution replacing their ammonia-based system with Opteon™ XP10, a low global warming potential (GWP), non-ozone depleting refrigerant,” said Chuck Allgood, Refrigerants Technology Leader at Chemours. “Opteon™ refrigerants continue to be installed in professional and community rinks across North America providing owners and operators an economically and environmentally sustainable solution," Allgood said.

The Panthers IceDen is a 125,000-sq.ft. multi-use facility that serves as the official practice location of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, in addition to hosting local
club and recreational hockey teams and figure skaters.

“Our passion for the art of ice making, engineered with the latest technology available, is built into every system,” said Jose Mergulhao, PE, Director of Business Development at Stellar. “We are pleased to provide the Florida Panthers organization with the latest and greatest in ice rink design, including the ICE360 RC-7000, an innovative rink controller that offers the latest in automation capabilities.”

"The underfloor heating system had failed, and without it, permafrost was being created, which causes a floor to be raised and crack. The 25-year-old refrigeration system was also at the end of its lifecycle," Mergulhao explained. 

In addition to demolishing the old floor pad, Stellar self-performed the engineering, design and installation of the new floor pad and refrigeration system. Stellar also provided a temporary refrigeration system to minimize disruptions to the operations of the facility. Two rinks remained open at all times during construction.

Jose Mergulhao has 25-years of ice rink experience, with both collegiate and professional hockey rinks. He told Contracting Business that the most challenging part of the project was in coordinating activities related to remediating, designing and completing the work, and ensuring that the nearby ice rink remained operational, even while replacing a refrigeration package that was tied to that system. 

"We remediated the problem, replaced the floor and refrigeration system with zero downtime," Mergulhao said. Remediation required that the five-person crew remove frozen earth, and build an entirely new rink surface. We went down about two feet, and them began to build up the underfloor heating system."

Stellar General Superintendent Ben Blankenship provided project oversight, working on-site daily with other superintendents, to ensure the project was completed on-time and according to plan.

During the planning stage, Mergulhao met with facility managers interested in alternatives to ammonia.

"I met with the Florida Panthers organization, to speak to them about pros and
cons of ammonia, and about possibly putting in a synthetic air-cooled system, and the Opteon XP-10 refrigerant. We put in an air- cooled refrigeration system outside, and we removed the old ammonia package from the mechanical room and installed a pump package all new electrical," he explained.

It was helpful that the National Hockey League in May 2018 had established a multi-year partnership focused on providing Opteon sustainable refrigerant solutions to rinks across North America. Mergulhao said the new refrigeration system was positioned outside the facility, which freed up a large amount of space in the facility mechanical room.   

The $1.26 million project broke ground in September 2020 and was completed in March 2021. The Florida Panthers IceDen is located at 3299 Sportsplex Drive in Coral Springs.

“We are very pleased with the professionalism and craftsmanship that Stellar provided in renovating one of our ice rink floors and associated refrigeration system,” said Keith Fine, general manager of the Florida Panthers IceDen. “They provided an outside of the box solution that will help reduce our overall operations and maintenance costs, and we look forward to providing a superior on-ice experience for our customers.”

The Panthers organization recently announced that the newly upgraded Panthers IceDen will serve as the host site for the 2021 Liberty Bell Games, America's premiere showcase for ice hockey players between the ages of 14 and 18. The event will be held on Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19.

Stellar is a fully integrated design, engineering, construction, refrigeration and mechanical services firm that provides the industry’s most comprehensive range of self-performed services, including planning, design, pre-construction, construction, refrigeration, mechanical and utility, building envelope, and total operations and maintenance services.