MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some lawmakers are trying to help Minnesota ice arenas pay for a pricy upgrade.

Beginning in 2020, there’s an international agreement to stop producing the R-22 refrigerant, which many rinks use to stay cold. The transition will mean higher costs, as the rinks will need to find alternative refrigeration systems.

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“The question is how we get there and how we get there in the most cost effective way,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said. “And it can be somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 and for some of the older rinks it can be over a million dollars to fix.”

The chemical was banned by Montreal protocol after scientists discovered it was damaging to the ozone layer. Currently 120 ice rinks in Minnesota still use R-22, including Mariucci Arena and Xcel Energy Center.

“It’s important to continue to look for ways for these rinks to operate,” Minnesota Wild marketing vice president John Maher said.

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Klobuchar is working with the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure local rinks have the tools they need to make the transition to new refrigeration systems easier.

The Plymouth Ice Center is exploring alternative chemicals, like ammonia. The switch would cost the rink around $1 million.

“We have nearly 1,100 boys and girls playing hockey at the Plymouth Ice Center,” Wayzata Youth Hockey Association president Greg Gibson said. “It’s important to keep hockey affordable in the city of Plymouth and the state of Minnesota.”

For now the games and laps around the rinks will go on. The rinks can continue to use their current refrigeration system, even after 2020, if it is still functioning. However, if there is a chemical leak they will have to upgrade.

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“These ice rinks are a part of quality of life and our state,” Klobuchar said.

Kate Raddatz