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Ice Issue Heating Up for Minnesota Hockey Arenas

Updated: 02/25/2014 10:19 PM
Created: 02/25/2014 9:10 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Hockey associations in Minnesota are facing off with an interesting issue: making ice a local arenas. The chemical currently used at many arenas is harmful to the ozone layer so federal law is prompting expensive changes for small town rinks.

R-22 Freon runs beneath the Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet to keep players skating on ice, but imports of the chemical will be stopped by federal law in 2020. Finding a new way to freeze the rink could be too expensive for arenas like the one in Cloquet.

“The ranges on the options ranged from about $1.2 million all the way up to $1.8 million,” Rink Manager Justin Harriman said.

Harriman said that would be the cost to switch from R-22 to another refrigerant like carbon dioxide or an ammonia based system. He said the current system is pumping fine, but a leak could be an expensive disaster as R-22 phases out.

Not every arena would be facing such a steep price tag. Costs could range from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the change will be widespread. Arenas like Mars-Lakeview, the Heritage Sports Center and over 100 others will be impacted. Harriman said small towns and hockey associations might not have money to convert.

“If you had that many rinks go down I think you'd have some crying going on because you could shut down a lot of places if it wasn't available,” Harriman said.

Arena managers and lawmakers are taking a slap shot at $15 million of state bonding money. Loans or grants would help keep these rinks open and holding tournaments that boost local economies.

“We've got the luxury of a couple good hotels, AmericInn especially, that have done a great job of supporting us giving these teams a really good deal on staying in town,” Harriman said.

He said the sport has an impact on players too.

“Hockey like most sports has life lessons. There's working with teams and being with your friends. There's something special about hockey,” Harriman said.

Keeping those skaters on ice will take support from the State of Hockey.

The Minnesota Ice Arena Managers Association is holding meetings next month on the issue with state lawmakers. One is scheduled in the Northland at the Miners Memorial Building in Virginia on March 13.

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