ST. PAUL, Minn. - The ice at Phalen Recreation Center in St. Paul should be hard and fast by Friday, ready for skaters and hockey players to carve up in the heart of a Minnesota winter.
Last month, much of the skating season was almost stolen from the public. "The copper was the only thing they took. All the rubberized material was left intact," Brad Meyer with the Park and Rec Department explained. The tubing system was destroyed. Meyer estimates thieves only got a couple hundred bucks for the 256 feet of copper, but it would cost the city almost $30,000 to replace the system.
At that time, city leaders were unsure where they would find the money to replace the tubing, and when they'd be able to get the job done.
That's when NAC Mechanical and Electrical Services and a supply partner of theirs, Mulcahy Company, Inc., stepped in. NAC, a local company, found out about the theft and offered a donation of all labor and materials required to make the repairs. Following more than a week of intensive work the repairs are now finished, and the rink is ready for skaters.
"We're rooted in this community, and so is this rink. We couldn't let this rink be taken from the kids and families of Saint Paul and we had a solution to prevent this from happening again," said NAC Mechanical and Electrical Services President Lynn Bishop. "We wanted to get the rink back to the community and with the help of our supplier, Mulcahy Co., Inc. we could make that happen."
Mayor Chris Coleman has long been a supporter of skating rinks and he charged the department with finding a way to get the rink up and running. The department looked at its budget and couldn't find a spare $30,000 sitting around. "We're towards the end of our fiscal year and that's a pretty big pinch," Meyer told KARE 11.
Coleman also gave the Parks and Recreation Department clear directions to research alternatives that might replace the copper to help protect the rink in the future.
The solution delivered by NAC Mechanical and Electrical Services and Mulcahy Co., Inc. is a non-copper, plastic-based composite type material called "Heat-link" that has little-to-no scrap value, and was tested to ensure it would be able to withstand the harsh Minnesota elements.
The two companies took the entire cost on the chin. "They looked at it like we look at it. It is an essential service; something that gets kids and gets families out during the holidays and the winter time when they're most always indoors," Meyer said.
"What these thieves did could have impacted thousands of kids and families this winter, but we are grateful we have companies like NAC Mechanical and Electrical Services and Mulcahy Co., Inc. that are willing to step up and help us out," said Coleman.
This new tubing has little re-sale value and shouldn't be a target for another theft. As for the rink that opens on Friday, it hosts more than 15,000 skaters annually.
St. Paul Park and Rec has more than 20 free, public outdoor ice rinks, including three permanent refrigerated rinks at Phalen, North Dale and Palace Recreation Centers.
Having a refrigerated system adds as much as six weeks to the skating season.
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