West St. Paul scores 'Mighty Ducks' grant for ice arena

West St. Paul area hockey players can breathe a sigh of relief — or maybe let out a duck call — thanks to the Mighty Ducks ice arena grant program. The Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission has granted $200,000, its highest disbursement amount, toward renovating the city's ice arena.

West St. Paul, Mendota Heights and School District 197 are partnering on a $1.9 million revamp of John V. Hoene Arena. Each entity recently agreed to contribute $555,333 to the project. 

The grant will help replace the rink's outdated R-22 refrigeration system. The 1971 arena also has aging plumbing, electric lines and a weathered roof. 

"The (West St. Paul City Council) made a commitment to preserve hockey in our community and we are now one step closer to fulfilling that promise with this grant award," West St. Paul Mayor John Zanmiller said in a statement.

The city expects renovations to start the spring of 2015. West St. Paul city staffers say the upgrades should prepare the arena for another 15-20 years of use.

West St. Paul approached Mendota Heights and the school board earlier this year about the renovation — a project in part sparked by federal environmental regulations.

The cities and school district have been discussing the issue for the past several months, in hopes of addressing the replacement of the arena's refrigeration system, which uses R-22 coolant, or Freon, which is being phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency. By 2020, it will be illegal to import R-22 into the country. 

The arena is the home ice for the Sibley boys and girls hockey teams and provides space to the district's feeder programs, such as the area youth hockey association.

The Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission Board of Directors recently allotted 11 grants totaling $1.5 million to communities around the state. West St. Paul was one of two cities and two school districts to receive $200,000 grants, the highest amount issued.

The grants are meant to help develop new ice arenas, make renovations, improve indoor air quality and get rid of R-22 refrigeration systems. Each entity had to match the grant, dollar-for-dollar, with its own funding.

—Kaitlyn Roby

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