While media outlets in the region are having a little fun with the fact that the ice in Crookston Sports Center's Event Arena melted earlier this week on one of the most frigid days of the winter, it was no joking matter when Parks & Recreation Director Scott Riopelle, also the CSC manager, had to postpone Tuesday evening's girls' hockey game pitting the Pirates against the Thief River Falls Prowlers. (The games have been rescheduled for Friday, Jan. 25, with junior varsity dropping the puck at 3 p.m. followed by the varsity game at 5 p.m.)
Riopelle told members of the Park Board this week that the problems began Monday afternoon. "It slushed up at the chiller tower outside," he said.
So what does that mean, specifically? Well, there's a chilling tower outside, on the east side of the CSC, and the coolant is supposed to flow through the external pipes and keep any heat from getting inside and under the ice, where it can melt it. The coolant, reliable to only around zero degrees, Riopelle said, started to get slushy and wasn't flowing properly.
Staff had to fire up a Nipco heater and enclose the chiller with tarps to eventually get rid of the slush and get things flowing again. Personnel from Midwest Refrigeration sent two vans to the scene as well.
Riopelle said playing the Pirate/Prowler game in the Blue or Gold arena was considered, but the ice sheets are all tied to the same system, and he said he didn't want to risk one of the back rinks starting to melt during a game.
"Extreme cold" was the culprit, Riopelle said, adding that other arenas in the region were having similar problems, although no other hockey games elsewhere had to be postponed.
The whole saga caused some board members to wonder why a more reliable system wasn't put in place for an ice arena in northern Minnesota in January. Board Chair Larry Brekken asked if "richer" anti-freeze that would stand up better to extreme cold could be used; Riopelle said he'd have to check with the contractor.
Other extreme cold spells in the CSC's three year history haven't led to Tuesday's problems. "It hasn't in the past, but it could happen again," Riopelle said. "It's kind of the season for these kinds of issues, I guess."