Proposed Ice Rink Lands City in ‘Hot Water’

Minnesota town will capture geothermal energy to power curling facility.

by / April 25, 2011
David Jacobson, U.S. ambassador to Canada, shows off his curling skills. U.S. Embassy to Canada

Curling — similar to shuffleboard, but on ice — is a sport most people only see on TV during the Winter Olympics. But in Blaine, Minn., the sport is in high demand, so much so that the city could use a dedicated curling facility.

Ironically hybrid geothermal technology could make the icy endeavor a reality.

The private, nonprofit Fogerty Arena originally introduced plans to build a curling facility to the Blaine City Council in 2008, but the facility wasn’t built because the arena couldn’t finance the project, according to Dave Clark, councilman and the council’s arena liaison.

Mark Clasen, the arena’s manager, reintroduced the plan to the City Council after learning a similar project using hybrid geothermal technology in Brooklyn Park, Minn. Last fall, the Brooklyn Park project got Clasen’s attention. Over the course of the winter, Clasen and his staff have been tracking the project’s positive results.

“The improvements will use geothermal heat from the city’s water system to efficiently cool the rinks and heat portions of the building,” according Brooklyn Park’s official government website.

Clark said although Fogerty Arena’s project couldn’t get off the ground in 2008, the arena may qualify for grants by using the hybrid geothermal technology.

“What is different with this opportunity is they’ve come across some geothermal heating technology that basically allows them to draw heat or cooling from the city water tower located across the street,” Clark said. “By tapping that source of geothermal energy, it’s possible that the building will qualify for grants and different programs that might put them over the top in terms of getting the funding to work out.”

Clasen said he would like to combine the curling facility project with renovations to Fogerty’s 30-year-old south rink. By combining the two projects, there would be only one refrigeration room for the arena and curling facility, instead of constructing two rooms. From the refrigeration room, the arena could access the city’s water tower located 150 feet away.

“We’re not using the water at all,” Clasen said. “It’s a closed loop — a percentage of the water is being routed through the refrigeration room where we’re literally either adding or subtracting energy from that water as needed.”

Clasen said renovating the south arena and building the curling facility could cost between $600,000 to $1 million.

The City Council has tentatively approved the arena’s use of the city’s water tower, but first the city plans to do research and due diligence to ensure the approach won’t negatively impact water quality.

“First and foremost, it’s a city well,” Clark said. “It’s going to provide clean drinking water and anything that prevents that operation from happening is obviously not going to be allowed.”

Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.