Richfield has delayed some scheduled improvements to the Richfield Ice Arena to do more investigation about exactly what’s in the soil around the building.
The city plans to invest about $2 million in the arena to capitalize on the presence of the Minnesota Magicians, a minor league hockey team that is using the arena as its home base. The city is adding a locker room for the team, but when ground was broken for the $565,000 project at the rear of the arena, workers discovered some surprises underground.
As in an old mattress, a box spring and other debris.
With a planned arena expansion that includes new classrooms, a larger lobby, a training facility and a bigger parking lot, City Manager Steve Devich said it seemed wise to do a closer examination of the soil around the building.
He said the city believes that when Crosstown Hwy. 62 was constructed, “stuff was dumped” in what is now Veterans Park, where the arena is located, at 636 E. 66th St.
“It made us think that maybe we need to take a good hard look at any other soil issues we’re facing,” he said. “I like to measure twice and cut once. This is the most money we’ve put into the arena since it was built, even more than adding the second [ice] sheet.”
Devich said the work could delay construction for a few months, but that the city is committed to the expansion project. The debris and unstable soil found when construction began on the locker room meant dirt had to be removed and replaced. Devich said the locker room budget will cover the remediation cost.
Because the delay means the city is breaking the arena expansion project into two pieces, it will cover the locker room construction costs with internal transfers, then sell bonds to cover the cost of the entire project and pay itself back for the building of the locker room.
City officials expect the Magicians, which began playing at the 1971 arena this year, to sign a 15-year lease for about $53,000 a year. Those payments will cover the cost of the locker room.
Magicians officials say they chose to play in Richfield because the arena is centrally located and has a classic layout with seats that encircle the ice sheet and are near the rink, providing the kind of intimacy they want. The arena also had ice time available on Friday and Saturday nights.
Richfield officials seized on the team’s presence as a chance to revitalize the arena for other purposes besides hockey. U.S. Figure Skating has used the arena in the past but had complained that the building did not have enough meeting space to host big events, and city officials were worried that the arena lacked the kind of amenities that would attract more rentals.