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Richfield seeks input on ice arena renovation project

Post Date:08/29/2019 8:51 PM

Curling setup 1

Minnesota is known for its many distinctive items: hotdishs, lakes, Post-Its, and the Coen Brothers, just to name a few. However, the state is probably best known as the State of Hockey. Residents from 9 months to 99 years of age love spending time on the ice year-round whether it is indoors or outdoors.

Most communities have an indoor ice arena that hosts a variety of skating and non-skating events. However, many of these indoor arenas, which were built more than 40 years ago, are feeling their age and are in need of renovation. For this, as well as many other reasons, the City of Richfield is embarking on a renovation project that will see its ice arena meet the needs of the areas skating and non-skating population for decades to come.

It is estimated that the cost of the ice arena renovation project will be $3.5 million.

“Most ice arenas do not make it 48 years on its original ice generating system, but Richfield’s has,” said arena manager Kris Weiby. “By replacing the system now, we will be able to make sure that it will be able to serve area residents for at least another three decades.”

Founded in 1971, the Richfield Ice Arena is still operating with its original ice generation plants. Due to the diligent work of ice arena staff, the system has met the needs of residents, but due to the systems age and a new United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation, that may not be the case for long.       

All but a handful of Minnesota ice arenas generate their ice by utilizing hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22, also known as R-22. R-22 is designated as an ozone-depleting Class II substance. New production and import of most HCFCs will be phased out by 2020. The most common HCFC in use today is R-22, a refrigerant still used in existing air conditioners and refrigeration equipment.     

Starting January 1, 2020, R-22 will no longer be produced in the United States, which will cause the existing cost of the substance to dramatically increase as the supply of it gradually decreases.

“As a city, we are trying to be environmentally and fiscally responsible,” said Recreation Services Department director Amy Markle. “Right now, our current ice arena system will become too costly when R-22 gets phased out and continue to cause a potential threat to the environment.”

Ice arena management estimates that the replace of its current ice generation system to its modern equivalent will save the city more than $30,000 annually in refrigerant and maintenance costs.

The Richfield Ice Arena is a regional attraction that hosts 12 hockey tournaments, as well as figure skating competition, annually. Recently, the arena has become home to a local curling club, Richfield Rocks. Yearly, more than 500,000 visitors come to the ice arena, but due to its current infrastructure, the facility is limited to the types of events it can host. 

The city aims to change that through the renovation project.

“The Richfield Ice Arena is contacted all the time about whether it can host dry floor events and as it stands now, it cannot,” explained Markle. “Rink #1 would be a great place to host everything from indoor soccer to trade shows to wine tastings. It is our intention that once we convert it the rink through the renovation project we will be able to host many dry floor events.”

As it now stands, the different tournaments, competitions, leagues and ice time rentals bring metro area and regional residents to the Richfield community, which is a positive economic driver for the city’s restaurants, hotels and other businesses. It is the city’s belief that the number of non-resident visitors would increase with the addition of the dry floor event capabilities added to the ice arena through the renovation project.

“I see the Richfield Ice Arena as a major regional attraction for the city,” remarked Ward I Councilmember Simon Trautmann. “A better ice arena that is home to different types of events means more people coming to dine, play and stay here.” 

Since 2013, the Richfield Ice Arena has become home to the Minnesota Magicians of the North American Hockey League. 

The renovation project, and various other alternatives, was presented to the city council during a work session on August 13. Following a community engagement campaign to elicit suggestions from residents the city council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the project at their October 22 meeting.

If approved by the council, the project would start during the spring of 2020 and be ready for use by October 1, 2020.

Other upgrades to the facility, besides the replacement of the ice generation system, would include a removable turf field, updated HVAC, ADA compliant bathrooms at Rink #1, and a full roof replacement.

All information sessions on the renovation project will take place at the Richfield Ice Arena, 636 East 66th Street. Information sessions will take place on:

  • Saturday, September 14 at 10 a.m.
  • Saturday, September 21 at 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, September 25 at 7 p.m.
  • Monday, September 30 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, October 4 at 6 p.m., prior to the Minnesota Magicians game

It is important to note that even though the cost of the project may seem imposing, it will actually not affect the city’s tax levy. The city would fund the project through leftover funds from the city golf course that was enveloped into the airport when it expanded in 1999, as well as some additional capital improvement funds in the Recreation Services budget.  

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