Beyond Its Shelf Life: Scott Henderson Talks Murrayfield Renovation Needs

There have been a lot of questions from members about the current needs of Murrayfield Curling Rink. Our new resident ice pro, Interim Rink Manager Scott Henderson, has spent the last few weeks getting to know the facility and sat down to answer them.

Let’s start with the state of the floor and why urgency is required.

I’ve been in many ice rinks in many different countries, and one of the key successes to good curling ice is floor level.

At Murrayfield, the concrete is in very poor condition and is breaking up in key areas beside the return bends and the seal round the end of the rink. The pipework is not consistent, which means we are not getting consistent freezing temperatures.

We’re having to have a thickness of ice to get it level that’s three or four times the depth we should actually need. It’s so uneven that we are spending a ridiculous amount on power to maintain the ice.

The floor at Murrayfield is one of the worst I’ve seen in terms of level, concrete density, and pipe layout. Everything has a shelf life, and this floor is past its life.

It’s not just the floor though, right?

People need to understand that it’s not just a case of frozen water that’s flat for curling. There are so many other key elements. You have ice temperature control, water level, humidity level, air temperature…and these all have a massive bearing on the quality of curling ice.

I know from first-hand experience having done the ice for the 2013 European Mixed Championships at Murrayfield, that the consistency across the hall didn’t change from day to day – it changed hour by hour. We essentially have an unsealed playing area.

There’s no proper insulation. We’re losing to the heat but we are also unable to stop humidity – a killer of the ice – from coming in from outside.

One of the biggest Achilles heels of running these big facilities is power. When you have a building that changes hour to hour because of outside temperatures, finding consistency is very challenging. And importantly, it’s not cost effective.

Murrayfield is also running the plant near capacity. Modern compressors can be set at -7 to achieve a floor temperature of -5. Here, we have to set it to -12 to try and achieve -5; even then, we barely reach that. Especially in the second half of the season, with the thickness of the ice, we sometimes can’t. The refrigeration plant can only handle so much.

So what’s going on this summer?

At the moment, we are using the shutdown period to do as many repairs and checks as possible. Anything that we can physically see, we are repairing. We’re recharging the brine system; we’ve looked into the leaks and made sure they’ve been fixed professionally. There’s only so much we can do in this aging building.

We’re doing our level best to make it last for another season. It really is on its last legs, and that’s my professional opinion on it.

Would you tell me a bit about yourself for members who don’t know you?

I started my career volunteering at big events as an avenue to learn from some of the world’s top technicians.

I’ve worked as a consultant for the World Curling Federation and the European Curling Federation and other rinks. I was employed to install ice, to train their staff, and to show them how to produce competition ice. For the last 15 to 20 years, I’ve travelled the world for big events and managed two different curling facilities.

Primarily the last few years, I’ve mostly been dealing with the elite, but I very much come from a club curling background.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There’s no point in making promises of what is going to be. But be assured, we will do our level best to produce the best possible conditions this season considering the circumstances.

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