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Blues, Wild take different paths toward environmentally sustainable rinks

St. Louis building practice facility from scratch; Minnesota has repurposed vacant store

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / Staff Writer

The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild, two Central Division rivals, are taking different paths toward the same goal when it comes to environmentally sustainable community ice skating rinks.

The Blues are building a practice facility from scratch, partnering with the City of Maryland Heights and the St. Louis Legacy Ice Foundation to open the $78 million St. Louis Community Ice Center in September.

The Wild opted to repurpose an existing structure for its TRIA Rink practice facility, which sits atop a previously vacant department store as part of a $70 million redevelopment project in downtown St. Paul.

"It's a great juxtaposition," Patrick Quinn, chairman of the Legacy Foundation, said of the two approaches. "It's trying to play all the various counteracting forces between the money, the environment, what's going on socially in your area and everything and just trying to figure out how to grow this game when there's no unlimited resources or there's not always access for folks."

There are approximately 4,800 indoor ice rinks across North America with an average age of more than 30 years. The NHL, through its Greener Rinks Initiative, seeks to highlight the benefits of adopting sustainable practices to further the future success of local rinks, old and new.

Quinn likes to say that the people behind the 277,000 square-foot, four-sheet [three indoors, one outdoors] St. Louis Community Ice Center are practicing "Midwestern environmentalism," which means doing good while being budget-conscious.

"There's a reality that you have to be price-sensitive to what people can afford to pay to play what is already an expensive sport," he said. "You get smart about saying, 'OK, how can we buy recycled materials and save money' or 'How can we buy a couple of used Zambonis and refurbish them or buy a used electric Zamboni,' which we did. Avoiding all the wear and tear of what happens to build something from brand new we're trying to be smart about trying to find materials and things we can use again."

For example, rink patrons will sit on benches made of recycled plastic and lumber. The facility will have 10,000 square feet of reclaimed wood, mostly from barns in Missouri and southern Illinois, instead of wood from fresh-cut trees. It will be illuminated by energy-efficient LED lighting, and heat from the ice-making systems will be recaptured for use in the ice melt pits and the underslab of the rinks.

In St. Paul, self-tinting ceiling-to-wall glass provides a bird's eye view of downtown from the one ice sheet of ice inside TRIA Rink, which opened in January 2018.

"It's heat-resistant and it will block the sunlight from impeding on the ice and melting the ice," Jamie Spencer, executive vice president for business for the Wild, said of the Minnesota-produced SageGlass. "It preserves the beauty to the downtown skyline without damaging the rink."

The rooftop rink, which opened in January 2018, is located on the fifth floor of the Treasure Island Center, which also houses offices, stores and restaurants.

Photo courtesy: Minnesota Wild

The Wild, who have a 22,800 square-foot locker room in the facility, shares the ice with the Whitecaps of the National Women's Hockey League and the men's and women's programs at Hamline University.

The repurposing project was done in partnership with the Wild, the St. Paul Port Authority and Minneapolis-based Hempel Companies.

"We saw an opportunity not just to get a practice rink, but an opportunity to help the city and grow the sport," said Jamie Spencer, executive vice president for business development for the Wild. "We interviewed many developers about this concept of 'Hey, what do you think about building a rink up top?' And many ran from it because it was so out of the box. Had we not done this, it's scary what that building might be or might not be. They might have imploded it and put another parking structure there."

Twelve million pounds of poured concrete later, an environmentally savvy rink sits atop the building. Two electric Zamboni ice resurfacing machines cut the ice. The electric machines drastically reduce the amount of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that would be produced by fossil fuel-powered resurfacing machines.

TRIA Rink, like the St. Louis project, uses a heat recovery system for ice pit melting and sub floor heating. The trash recycling and composting practices at Xcel Energy Center, where the Wild play, are done at TRIA Rink.

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