Legislature's inaction on Mighty Ducks Grant Program could hamper community rinks

June 19, 2019 06:53 PM

Inaction at the State Capitol during the most recent session could put some community ice rinks across Minnesota in hot water.

The Mighty Ducks Grant Program failed to receive $4 million requested by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission.


Such grant monies had been used previously by communities to help improve ice access and to switch cooling systems from Freon to an ammonia refrigeration.

Freon, or R-22, is the refrigerant at many ice rinks. But it will no longer be made starting next year due to government regulations. Rinks can still use freon after January 1, but the dwindling supply will send repair costs up.

"Fixing the R-22 issue we have - that's a big deal to all the rinks," said Pete Carlson, the senior operations manager at the National Sport Center in Blaine.

“When they stop manufacturing the leading refrigerant in our business… that's a problem."

Carlson said it could cost anywhere from $300,000 to over $1 million for a rink to switch off freon.

The commission met Wednesday in Blaine to develop a new game plan for the next legislative session in an effort to help rinks get grants.

State data shows there are 134 community rinks across Minnesota. Of that total, 45 (or about a third) have converted to non-freon refrigeration. Most of the rinks did it with the help of a Mighty Ducks Grant.

"This is an important investment for the state," said Joel Carlson, a member of the commission.

"A motivation to put money in the system so that communities can be compliant and have quality operations - not just for their communities but for the environment as well."

The commission said it will make a funding request to lawmakers again in the next legislative session.

The House bill that failed would have increased the amount of grant money a community could receive from $250,000 to $500,000.

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Eric Chaloux

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