STEVE SCOTT, Pioneer Press
February 3, 2005

Roseville's City Council this week declined to hire a professional engineer to work on repairing the refrigeration system at the John Rose Minnesota Oval, waiting instead for a task force to discuss the long-term economic viability of the speed-skating rink.

Those who use the world-class rink fear that if repairs on a leaking chiller aren't begun soon, world championship events scheduled for next winter will be in jeopardy. The Oval also hosts youth and novice speed skating and bandy programs.

The task force, which has been appointed but has not yet met, is to consider how the future operations of the rink should be funded. The Oval, one of five Olympic-quality speed-skating venues in the country, requires about $100,000 a year in operating funds from the city's general tax levy.

A key portion of the outdoor rink's refrigeration system needs to be repaired or replaced, and the track is operating this winter only with natural ice.

When the Oval's cooling system is operational, it allows for outdoor ice in temperatures up to 50 degrees, with a saltwater solution that freezes the 110,000-square-foot ice surface.

The Oval likely will be closed throughout the week, based on weather predictions. If colder weather comes next week, city staff will clean up the ice and reopen as soon as possible, city spokeswoman Carolyn Curti said.

Parks and Recreation director Lonnie Brokke had recommended spending up to $28,500 from the city's building replacement fund for an engineering firm to analyze repairs and improvements for the leaking chiller system.

The council defeated a compromise proposal to spend up to $14,250, with the 3-2 majority saying it wanted the task force to first explore the city's long-term commitment to the facility.

Nancy Nelson, coordinator of the city's youth bandy programs, who also use the Oval, had urged the council to consider next winter's schedule now.

"There are two events that will potentially bring representatives from at least five countries, maybe 10 or more," Nelson said. "We need to have some city commitment to getting the Oval fixed and keep moving forward."

City staff estimates repairs would take several months.

Steve Scott can be reached at or 651-228-5526.

Author: STEVE SCOTT, Pioneer Press

2005 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.