richfield ice arena

Information meetings about $3.5 million project scheduled

R-22 isn’t a term familiar with most residents of Richfield, but the refrigerant that keeps the city’s ice arena’s rinks chilled has become an important factor in the decision to replace the compressors at the facility.

Though not mandated to use any specific type of refrigerant, the city will soon be faced with a 48-year-old system that won’t be viable once the manufacture of R-22 in the United States ceases next year.

That’s why the city is planning to spend $3.5 million to replace the two compressors for the two ice rinks, all the piping required, and to replace the sand floor of rink 1 with a concrete floor.

But the city isn’t about to move ahead with the work until they’ve had a chance to let residents know the how and why. Over the next couple of weeks, the city is planning to hold several information sessions to allow residents to hear about the changes and to provide comment and ask questions.

Information sessions will take place:

• Saturday, Sept. 21, 10 a.m.

• Wednesday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m.

• Monday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.

• Friday, Oct. 4, 6 p.m., prior to the Minnesota Magicians game.

All information sessions on the renovation project will take place at the Richfield Ice Arena, 636 E. 66th St.

What residents will hear at these meetings was described by Kris Weiby, the Veterans Park facilities manager. He also oversees the ice arena.

“We will be replacing the compressor plant and all the piping that’s associated with it,” he said. “It currently uses the refrigerant R-22. We currently have two compressor plants and we would be taking that down to one. By condensing down to one plant, we’ll save $20,000 to $30,000 per year on energy and chemical costs,” he added.

In addition to the work in replacing the compressors, the city, in phases, would also replace all the piping, install concrete on the floor of rink 1 and have that work completed by about a year from now. The $3.5 million for the work would come from money the city has from its sale of the golf course many years ago, as well as grants secured by the city.

During the information sessions, Weiby said, “We want to describe why we have to get rid of that refrigerant, so people understand that.”

He also said that the addition of the concrete floor for rink 1 will provide benefits to the city.

“The concrete floor will allow us to do dry floor events – craft shows, bake sales, beanbag tournaments, wine and beer tastings – and then in March and September when ice sales are slower, we’ll put in turf for soccer and softball practice. It’s a way to let the public know, ‘Hey, this is our plan of attack. This is what we’re doing. This is why we need to do it.’”

As part of the presentation, Weiby said, “I’m gonna give some of the history of the building, too.”

The ice arena is a busy place, with about one-half million people working their way through the building during any given year.

“We have 12 to 13 hockey tournaments every year, two major figure skating championships, curling and many other events. I could go on and on,” he said.

By expending the money for the improvements now, the new equipment is expected to last another 30-35 years, Weiby said.

“It’s a good investment that will keep this building viable,” he said.

Weiby said that the project is most likely to be approved by the city council and will be scheduled to begin in April 2020.

In addition to the replacement of the ice generation system, other improvements to be included in the project are a removable turf field, updated HVAC, ADA-compliant bathrooms at rink 1 and a full roof replacement.

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