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State Fairgrounds' ice rink to melt away for good this spring

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Hockey's long ride at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds is coming to an end.

State Fair officials announced Tuesday that this winter is the last for the ice rink at the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum, the Star Tribune reports.

The Fair says the cost of replacing the 38-year-old equipment used to make ice at the arena is prohibitive. The Star Tribune says the decision means new homes will be needed next winter for the Como High School boys hockey team, the Hamline University women's team, a number of high school playoff games, and various youth and adult leagues.

In announcing the decision, Fair officials also cited diminished use of the ice surface.

General Manager Jerry Hammer tells the Pioneer Press the rink now hosts fewer than 50 events. That's less than one-third of the 150 or so it saw during its heyday and Hammer says it does not justify spending more than $1 million on replacing the deteriorated ice-making equipment.

Heyday? Hey, the folks at Vintage Minnesota Hockey remember those days well. Today's arena occupies the site of the old St. Paul Hippodrome, which was home to the St. Paul Athletic Club team that went to the national finals in 1922 and '23.

The Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum of today was built in 1951 and did not host ice events until 1975. But given its pedigree, Vintage Hockey calls it one of Minnesota's most hallowed hockey grounds.

Hockey will continue there through February. The Fair says next year it will expand its schedule of retail and special events at the Coliseum into the winter months.

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