Why aren’t refrigerated outdoor rinks on the discussion table?

I see in this weekend’s Northfield News that there’s an article titled Combined facilities discussed. The Ice Now, Northfield Skatepark Coalition, Northfield Area Family YMCA, and Northfield Tennis Association (website?) groups all met with the City recently to talk shared facility possibilities.

projects4.jpgThat’s good news, but I’m wondering why there’s been no mention of doing what other communities have done/are considering: outdoor refrigerated rinks (AKA ‘artificial outdoor ice’ and ‘artificially-chilled ice skating rinks’) that can also be used for other purposes.

In today’s Sunday Strib:

Slushy rinks might get the big chill: Mild winters have some metro cities considering a switch to refrigerated rinks.

And in this month’s issue of The Rake:

Outer Ring: The Temple is Melting: The soggy state of hockey in the era of global warming

Herb Brooks is quoted in 2003 as saying:

“Why do we have all these arenas around town? To give kids the chance to play, right? But they’re expensive! What if we could find a more cost-effective way to get more ice and allow more kids to play? We need to supplement the indoor arenas-artificial outdoor ice is the missing link.”

The Roseville facility (Guidant John Rose MN OVAL) converts to an Aggressive Skate Park in the warm months for bikes, blades and boards.

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And downtown St. Paul has the Wells Fargo WinterSkate, an outdoor, artificially-chilled ice skating rink adjacent to the historic Landmark Center.

I could imagine a similar rink in Ames Park, adjacent to downtown Northfield that would serve as a skate/blade/bike park in the off-season.

So what’s the deal? Why not add refrigerated outdoor rinks to the discussion? I don’t see anything about this on the Ice Now website and no one mentioned it the discussion two weeks ago.


  1. Scott Neal said:

    Griff: Yes, refrigerated outdoor ice is nicer and lasts longer into the spring than regular old outdoor ice, but boy is it expensive. I know it had a nice write up in the Strib this morning, but take a look at these two links from the City of Roseville that explain the facilities financial performance. Not very good.



    The information comes directly from the City of Roseville. It’s a little dated (2005), but I know the City discusses abandoning the oval every budget year. It is a significant tax burden on their citizens.

    March 4, 2007
  2. Holly Cairns said:

    Oops, It sounded like a good idea before I read Scott’s comments.

    I especially liked the aggressive skate park idea. Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe the skaters etc. wouldn’t be satisfied with this idea– Skaters (etc.) have already worked up a great plan for a fun park.

    Any skaters care to comment?

    March 6, 2007
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Scott, I don’t disagree that the rinks are expensive compared to plain old outdoor rinks.

    But $10 million for a new indoor arena ain’t cheap. It just seems to me that an outdoor refrigerated should be part of the discussion.

    I know the Roseville Oval isn’t making it financially but it’s a monster, created with a different purpose in mind.

    March 8, 2007
  4. Scott Neal said:

    Griff – I did not mean to suggest that outdoor artificial ice should not be on the table for discussion. I only wanted to suggest that it’s not the be-all and end-all that it is sometimes portrayed (not by you) to be.

    March 8, 2007
  5. Steve Mars said:

    Scott and all – Great to have the dialogue. As a hockey coach or player for the past 45 years, the cost of hockey/skating is shutting out way too many kids. Hockey in Minnesota could be more like soccer. Our state produces the most NHLers in the USA, yet the NHL is made up of only 8% American players, with the rest from Canada and Europe. Perhaps the lack of unstructured, cheap hockey is part of the problem. Imagine Michael Jordan without playground basketball and you can see what I mean. The Roseville Oval financial woes are based primarly on the fact that they under estimated their operating costs initally. It is an entirely different economic model than what we are proposing. They manage 110,000 square feet of ice with half of that used by 10 or so paying customers at a time (speed skaters). A hockey/skating rink could have 30 paying customers on 20,000 square feet of ice. Remember, ice reliability is not the problem. I skated on an outdoor rink in San Diego, CA last year. Building the right economic model is the issue.

    March 27, 2007
  6. Steve Mars said:

    Correction, 17% of the players in the NHL are Americans.

    March 27, 2007
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    thanks for chiming in, Steve. Here’s an exerpt from a Pioneer Press article on Mayor Coleman’s state of the city speech:

    A rink rat before his political days, Coleman said he hoped hockey would play a role in that, too. He said he’s met with Ramsey County officials to address what has become a skating crisis in St. Paul.

    Warm winters have turned beloved rinks into sloppy messes, and outdoor skating that used to start around Thanksgiving has been put off until the new year, according to hockey booster and Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough.

    “Our youth teams still do a lot of outdoor practice because it’s cheaper and because it really exposes kids to that rink-rat mentality that coaches say really builds skills,” McDonough said. “It’s just coming down and skating that makes a difference, and that has been really difficult” because of the weather.

    Coleman said he hopes the city, county and private contributors might put together at least two outdoor refrigerated rinks to firm up the city’s hockey tradition.

    March 28, 2007
  8. Steve Mars said:

    Thanks for the article from Mayor Coleman. Watch for Bloomington to begin work on 3-5 rinks in the next year or so. A presentation is being made to their city council I think at their next meeting. Edina is looking seriously at it too. In Eden Prairie, it costs $310 for kids K-3 to play hockey. In Wayzata it costs $450. In Eden Prairie, in-house youth basketball costs $60 to play. In Duluth, it costs kids K-5 $100 to play hockey. It’s one reason why hockey up north is filled with great athletes who choose to play hockey instead of basketball. Also, about 60% of the kids in EP do not play any winter sport. There’s plenty of supply, but we need a better price point. Outdoor Refrigerated ice is the answer. Hockey is a much better participation sport than basketball because 16 kids see a lot of action during a game. In Basketball, maybe 7 or 8 kids see a lot of action. It’s the same all over the metro. We need to create a whole new economic model for figure skating and hockey.

    April 4, 2007

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