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Many Minnesota ice arenas will need expensive upgrades

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A chemical currently used as a refrigerant in ice-making equipment at arenas across Minnesota is too damaging to the ozone layer to be used, the federal government says.

Which means a lot of arenas will have to make some potentially expensive changes.

R-22 Freon runs beneath the ice at as many as 120 arenas across the state, the Minnesota Ice Arena Managers Association told WDIO. Federal law is halting imports of this chemical starting in 2020, which means servicing R-22 based systems will rely solely on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This means if an arena using R-22 has a leak it could be an expensive disaster as the chemical is phased out, WDIO reports.

The upgrades needed for arenas still using R-22 can be very expensive.

"The options ranged from about $1.2 million all the way up to $1.8 million," Justin Harriman, rink manager at the Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet, told WDIO.

That would be the cost for the arena to switch from R-22 to another refrigerant, like carbon dioxide or an ammonia-based system, according to the Associated Press.

It might not be as expensive for other arenas. The cost could range from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Herriman said some small towns and hockey associations may not have the funds to make the switch.

“If you had that many rinks go down I think you'd have some crying going on because you could shut down a lot of places if it wasn't available,” Harriman told WDIO.

The MIAMA is holding three regional workshops next month in Mankato, South St. Paul and Virginia. The association will discuss the phaseout of R-22, conversion options and costs, and legislative and funding options, according to the Associated Press. WDIO says there is the possibility of $15 million in state bonding money to help with the changeover.

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