The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 26, 2014

Rinks face conversions as refrigerant phased out

R-22 runs beneath ice at All Seasons Arena

DULUTH (AP) — Hockey arenas across Minnesota are facing off against a big challenge: a chemical currently used in ice-making equipment at many arenas is harmful to the ozone layer so federal law is prompting expensive changes.

R-22 refrigerant runs beneath the ice at Mankato's All Seasons Arena and many others statewide, but imports of the chemical will be halted in 2020.

Finding a new way to freeze rinks could be too expensive for affected arenas, said Justin Harriman, rink manager of Cloquet's Northwoods Credit Union Arena.

"The options ranged from about $1.2 million all the way up to $1.8 million," Harriman told Duluth's WDIO-TV.

According to the Minnesota Ice Arena Managers Association, as many as 120 facilities could be affected statewide. The group has scheduled three regional workshops for next month in Mankato, South St. Paul and Virginia to discuss the R-22 phaseout, conversion options and costs, and legislative and funding options. Arena managers and lawmakers are discussing the possibility of state bonding money, as well as loans or grants.

The Mankato meeting will take place March 11, said Jared Larson, manager of All Seasons Arena.

"We'll be looking into it," Larson said. "They won't be producing (R-22) anymore. They've already slowed production, and that has upped the cost. We'll have to explore our options and see what the next step is."

Not every arena would face such a steep price tag. Costs could range from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the change will be widespread, and leaks could become expensive disasters as R-22 phases out and supplies tighten.

Harriman said small towns and hockey associations might not have the money to switch from R-22 to carbon dioxide or ammonia-based systems.

"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.

Mankato's downtown Verizon Wireless Center, where the Minnesota State men's hockey team plays, had a new rink floor and ice-making system installed last summer. Officials from the civic center were unable to be reached.

Free Press Staff Writer Shane Frederick contributed to this story.

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