Some major changes may be in store for city-run ice arenas in East Grand Forks following a work session for City Council members and staff Tuesday night.
Leaders discussed revamping the city's VFW Arena to serve more needs than just those of an ice rink, along with some improvements to the Civic Center, the city's second of three ice arenas.
The topic came up in a presentation from Parks and Recreation Superintendent Reid Huttunen regarding a national phase-out of the refrigerant East Grand Forks uses to maintain its ice. R-22, the refrigerant in question, will no longer be legally made in or imported to the United States after Jan. 1, 2020, following a ruling from the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration. That doesn't mean use of R-22 will be illegal next year, but Huttunen said supply will eventually decrease, likely resulting in higher prices.
The cost of replacing the arenas' existing ice maintenance systems will be expensive, Huttunen told the council. Consultant CIMCO Refrigeration estimated it would cost about $1.4 million to replace the R-22 refrigeration system at the Civic Center and roughly $2.2 million at the VFW Arena.
"We knew that this was coming," said Council Vice President Chad Grassel. "We knew that we were going to have issues with outbuildings."
Grassel then recalled a plan he said the council discussed two to three years ago to repurpose the VFW Arena from an ice arena to a facility serving more indoor activity needs. Meanwhile, the city would open a new ice sheet next to the Civic Center, according to the plan Grassel recalled.
"It makes no sense to dump $2.2 million in one place, $1.4 million in another place, when we could actually really do a major upgrade to one facility," Grassel said. "We'd probably have to put some money into the other facility, but make that a more usable space for everybody in our community."
The council asked Huttunen to study the topic further.