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Last update: November 23, 2004 at 1:33 PM
Events canceled after leak cripples ice rink
David La Vaque
Star Tribune
Published November 24, 2004

The next ice age, as far as users of the John Rose Minnesota Oval in Roseville are concerned, can't come soon enough.

Leaks in the facility's cooling system, which allows the Oval to sustain outdoor ice in temperatures up to 50 degrees, have delayed the flooding of the 110,000-square-foot surface.

Instead of getting started last week, local speedskating clubs and youth hockey and bandy teams have canceled events and worked to find ice time elsewhere.

Lonnie Brokke, Roseville's director of parks and recreation, said a best-case-scenario would allow for the cooling system to be fixed enough to provide refrigerated ice by mid-December.

In the meantime, Oval users have already experienced losses of varying magnitudes. The biggest loss was the John Rose Minnesota Open, the facility's signature speedskating event. The Open, which draws 125 to 140 skaters from across the country and Canada, was scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12.

Greater Minnesota Skating Association President Steve Trynoski said the cancellation of the Open cost the Oval a great deal of national exposure and also took away revenue from the city.

"At a meet like the John Rose, where you have 130 skaters -- there might be 400 people in the area for three days and nights spending money and contributing to the local economy," he said.

Besides losing the Open, local speedskating clubs like Midway and Twin Cities are scrambling to find, or missing, valuable practice time. The two clubs are made up of about 100 members combined and are the two largest and fastest-growing area clubs. Trynoski said the clubs have begun scouting local ponds and lakes, as well as scheduling trips to Milwaukee, home of the Pettit National Ice Center.

Trynoski is equally concerned about the near future of the clubs, and whether a perceived lack of commitment to maintaining the Oval will affect recruiting.

"The morale has been adversely affected," he said. "I think many skaters have decided, 'Maybe this isn't a good sport for me if the Oval can't maintain itself.' A lot of those skaters on the margins who might think about writing a check for $300 a season -- this might push them away."

Vic Brodt, president of the Roseville Area Youth Hockey Association, isn't worried about losing his skaters -- he's too busy trying to purchase ice time. The RAYHA provides hockey for about 500 players ages 5 through 18, and those players are being sent to various local rinks until the Oval solves its outdoor ice situation.

Instead of getting eight practices conducted in one hour at the Oval, RAYHA players are going to Roseville Arena, Oscar Johnson in St. Paul and the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

"For the most part we've made it work," he said. "But it will be nice from a community standpoint to have all these kids in one place again."

Bandy, a combination of soccer and hockey played on ice and offered to all age groups, was scheduled to start Nov. 12. The Roseville Figure Skating Club uses the indoor facility at the Oval.

David La Vaque is at dlavaque@startribune.com.

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