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Work is on schedule at ice arena

Take a quick peek through the doors of the Schmitz-Maki Ice Arena these days and you might think you're in a sandbox rather than an ice arena.

The floor inside has been completely torn out, and inside, there are mounds of gravel where there is usually ice. But Farmington Parks and Recreation director Randy Distad says that's a good thing.

It's all part of the project to upgrade the 30-plus year-old ice arena. The project started this spring, and, according to Distad, is progressing right on schedule.

"We're making good progress, that's for sure," he said.

Crews started the project by removing the dasher boards and glass around the rink. Then, they cut the concrete floor into 8x8-foot slabs, and gradually removed those heavy pieces of concrete. Once crews were done removing the concrete, they pulled up the subfloor heating system - a network of tubing that was used to keep frost from forming in the ground - and finally, they hit dirt.

Lots and lots of dirt.

"It looks very different because there's a gravel material underneath the floor," Distad said, "but you don't think of that when you're looking at a hockey rink."

The crews didn't find any frost in the ground, which was good because that could have set the project back. They needed to be able to dig into the ground to create the trenches where the new piping is being laid.

Distad said the old compressor and the Freon storage tank have been removed -- freon was the chemical used in the piping to keep the ice cold before -- and are being replaced. The freon tank is being replaced with something called a brine tank, which will circulate a different type of liquid with an ammonia base under the floor to keep the ice formed.

To do that, the construction crews had to knock out the wall where the first aid room had been, because the brine tank is larger than the freon system.

At one point, there was question as to whether drain tile would be needed around the rink, so construction workers dug a couple of test holes. When water did not seep up into the holes, the contractor said the tiles weren't necessary.

Still, everything is moving along smoothly, Distad said.

"The plan is to have everything wrapped up by early September, so we can start flooding in mid-September and have it ready in time (for next year's hockey season). Concrete has to cure for at least 30 days before we can make ice, so that's really the driving force," he said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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