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How California’s drought helped Kings go green and create harder, faster ice in the process

The Los Angeles Kings’ search for an independent water source brought them to a partnership with BluEco Technology Group, and the results could change the way arenas everywhere make ice.

It was roughly two years ago that AEG Sports chief operating officer Kelly Cheeseman, which owns the Los Angeles Kings, and Kings president Luc Robitaille travelled to New York to meet with the NHL. The purpose of the meeting was, among other things, to explore a technology crafted by BluEco Technology Group that could potentially provide the Staples Center with an independent water source, an increasingly important need in a drought-stricken region of the United States.

Following that meeting, AEG teamed up with BluEco to beta test the technology at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, Calif., a public space and the Kings’ practice facility. The decision to use the technology — which, in the simplest terms, strips the moisture out of the air using a salt solution, purifies it and creates an in-house water source — was a no-brainer, said Cheeseman. “At that time, a few years ago in Southern California, we were in a much different drought situation,” Cheeseman said. “So, there was that natural fit from a green perspective, and then the real eye-opening feature was the energy savings that this could create.”

But the true power of the technology, referred to as BluEco Liquid Crystalline Turbex, wasn’t harnessed or put to the test in a sporting capacity until this past season. After a successful trial period at the practice facility, AEG decided to invest in bringing the technology to Staples Center in time for the 2017-18 campaign, and the results were rather staggering. Over the course of an entire year, the technology displayed potential for the Staples Center to have an independent source with the potential to create 500,000 gallons of water. “As we utilized the system this year and beta tested it, we pretty much reduced our city-related water consumption down to zero,” Cheeseman said.

And while the water saving is a clear-cut benefit, one that can make a significant environmental impact and has reduced the Kings’ overall water consumption, BluEco’s LCT technology has shown other promising perks, as well. First and foremost, particularly when it comes to the NHL, the system’s creation of purified water comes with the potential for an overall improvement in ice quality. Most players hadn’t been told about the system, Cheeseman said, and the feedback was that the ice was harder and had better glide. Explained BluEco president Scott Morris, who called the system a “technological breakthrough,” the reason for that is the removal of impurities in the water.

“What happens when your water is more impure, such as the municipal water systems, many more minerals and contents are in those waters. Therefore, (the ice) won’t be as dense because of those impurities,” Morris said. “You strip those impurities out and you’re going to make it much more dense, and therefore it’s going to freeze at a higher temperature and freeze a lot more solidly.”

That, too, comes with its benefits. By being able to freeze the ice at a higher temperate, Morris said, Staples Center was able to take an entire 833-ton ice chiller offline, along with all the associated cooling tower, pumps and fans. The other two chillers were reduced in their capacity, as well. That allowed the temperature in the lower bowl of the arena to rise without any ill effects on the ice. And given Los Angeles is more T-shirts-and-shorts than jersey weather even during the winter months, increasing the in-house temperature is one way to add to fan comfort. That’s not to mention the technology helps purify the air as it’s creating water.

“It’s kind of the magic trifecta, as we like to call it,” Morris said. “It’s good for the players because of the harder sheet, the faster ice, they’re turning better, they’re not digging in, the puck is gliding smoothly. But it’s also great for the spectators as well because they have a much better indoor air condition inside of Staples Center with the cleaner and drier air. And then, of course, it’s great for the general managers and the bottom line because it is going to save a tremendous amount of money, as well.”

True as it may be that the circumstances were right for BluEco to team up with AEG and the Kings at Staples Center, the belief is the LCT technology can have an impact throughout the hockey world, be it in NHL arenas or small-town community rinks. Without the need for displacing any current systems, there’s a “plug-and-play” aspect to the system, Morris explained, though a walkthrough of each individual building and some fine-tuning by the BluEco team can help produce the best results for each venue. And while Morris isn’t kidding himself about seeing the same instant results in every building — he said he knew they had a winner at Staples Center the moment the switch was flipped, but “will every installation be that dramatic? I would love for that to be, and certainly hope for it to be, but I don’t want to make any promises on that scale” — the technology itself will work “in any condition.”

“It will do the exact same thing as it does in L.A. as it would do in Boston or here in New York City,” Morris said. “Even down in Tampa or Fort Lauderdale. All those areas that are higher humidity levels, we’ll still be able to maintain the same humidity levels that we’re achieving at Staples Center and also still maintain the high quality of ice that we’re seeing at Staples, as well.”

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