White Bear Lake ice rink due for a desperately needed $4 million makeover

Renovation of ice arena

With a leaking roof, a failing refrigeration system and a cracked floor, the aging White Bear Lake Sports Center is due for a makeover.

City leaders and the White Bear Lake skating community have banded together to raise the $4 million to $4.5 million needed to renovate the ice rink. Work could begin as soon as April 2018.

White Bear Lake bought a former tennis club and turned it into an ice arena in 1988, City Engineer Mark Burch said. “Mechanical equipment just has a life to it,” and many parts of the building are nearing their end.

“The system being as old as it is, it could shut down any day,” said Kevin McFarlane, president of the White Bear Lake Area Hockey Association. His organization has pledged $2 million toward the project. The White Bear Lake City Council has said it would cover the rest.

“It’s been an extremely important building for us,” McFarlane said. “If we didn’t step in, we’d lose another sheet of ice and an association that’s growing.”

McFarlane said the association has 900 hockey players, ages 5 to 18. And with an expanding program for younger children, he expects that number to top 1,000 soon.

The association plays a “majority” of its games at the White Bear Lake rink, McFarlane said.

McFarlane said the city had been “exploring its options” for the rink at 1328 E. Highway 96. One of their questions was whether repairs on the aging building were worth the high cost.

That’s when the hockey association stepped in and pledged to foot half the bill.

That money will be raised through “a large capital fundraiser,” McFarlane said. Details, though, were still being worked on.

Designs are in the works for the renovation. On May 23, the city council approved a $444,868 contract with Kraus-Anderson Construction and JLG Architects.

Renovation plans include replacing the floor, the refrigeration system, the ceiling and the lighting. Work will also include adding insulation, repairing the roof and upgrading the building’s exterior.

The designs will be presented to the city council July 25. If approved, the city’s engineering department will finalize any planning and take bids for the work

“We have good support from the city council at this point,” Burch said. “They are very interested to see what we’re going to bring back to them in July.”

Construction is expected to last from April to October of 2018 so that hockey teams don’t miss a winter season on the ice.