To the thousands of people who use Parade Ice Garden year round, the three ice rinks are a convenient, if game worn, place to play hockey, figure skate or just take a few laps for fun and exercise.
But it’s what is unseen that is causing most of the problems.
The refrigeration system is old, mechanically and environmentally. On top of that, it leaks.
Faced with either expensive renovation or closure of the popular 40-year-old arena, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted recently to go ahead with a nearly $9 million renovation.
“[They] were in a bind, and it’s really a terrible decision to be faced with,” said Arlene Fried of Minneapolis Park Watch, which monitors the Park Board’s activities.
The extensive renovations of the Kenwood-area arena, which are already underway, include replacing the outdated refrigeration system, the rink floors, boards on the south rink and the dehumidification system.
“It’s a complete renovation,” said Bruce Chamberlain, the Park Board’s assistant superintendent for planning. “All the mechanical systems are being replaced.”
The refrigeration system replacement is the most costly part. Currently, the arena uses an R-22 refrigeration system, but R-22, a greenhouse gas, is being phased out by the federal government by 2020.
The R-22 refrigeration system at Parade is also leaky. Last year, the system’s leaks cost the city $130,000.
Savings should cover cost
The city is hoping energy savings, as well as increased revenue from more ice time on all three rinks throughout the year, will pay off the $8.8 million project in the long run.
Energy cost savings are about $93,000 annually, Chamberlain said, while annual operating and rehab costs could be reduced by $430,000.
Despite the projected savings, the cost of the project left some with sticker shock.
Andy Baltgalvis, manager of the Bloomington Ice Garden, said the suburban ice arena underwent similar renovations in 2007 at a fraction of the nearly $9 million cost.
“I’m kind of like wow, what are they doing for $9 million over there?” said Baltgalvis, who said he is a concerned citizen of Minneapolis.
Baltgalvis acknowledged that the project at Parade was on a larger scale. He said his sons played at the arena in high school.
“I’m not against this project, it’s just that I’m kind of going ‘is it really going to cost this much money?’ ” he said.
Baltgalvis said the Park Board has been open to his concerns, and he’s looking further into the finances of the project.
Chamberlain said the cost ballooned after initial estimates of $6 million didn’t fully take into account the scope of renovations needed.
Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb said the renovations are needed, but the board isn’t thrilled with the cost.
“Absolutely we had sticker shock,” she said. “It was very, very hard to take.”
Tabb said she’s comfortable with the financial projections showing the arena can pay the cost off, and the venue is in use enough by people across the city to make the renovations necessary.
Paul Larson, president of the Minnesota Storm Hockey program, said the project isn’t excessive and is simply making the facility functional. Losing the facility, he said, would affect the 700 kids in the hockey program, as well as figure skaters and adult hockey leagues that use Parade as their primary home. “It would greatly impact our program, because Parade is the most convenient arena,” he said.
Demolition is underway on the north rink. Renovations on it should be done in time for hockey season in the fall. The south and studio rinks will be renovated in 2014, which ensures ice time will be available throughout construction.
Brian Arola is a University of Minnesota student on assignment at the Star Tribune.