Fogerty Arena-based Four Seasons Curling Club, opened its doors on its new curling rink to a variety of curling veterans and rookies
Blaine’s Fogerty Arena continues to reinvent itself as one of the premier ice rinks in the Twin Cities area not only with the addition of a curling-exclusive rink, but also with upgraded ice making opportunities for the two hockey rinks.
The brand new Four Seasons Curling Club, which calls Fogerty Arena home, opened league play last week and is seeing interest in its learn-to-curl programs indicating Minnesotans are curious about the heavy-stone game.
“The [interest] in the last few days has skyrocketed,” Mark Clasen, Fogerty Arena general manager, said about the learn-to-curl program, which hosted two classes Jan. 2.
The first two-hour class was a few short of being full, but the second class of the evening ran 20 people over capacity. “We’ve had about 100 more [people] register online over the last 12 hours, too,” Clasen said. “Everybody is curious about it and now the goal is retaining those people to take part in one of our leagues.”
The beginner course is split between a classroom setting before on-ice guidance where students learn to slide the stone.
The Twin Cities’ only year-round curling club and ice sheet offers leagues for any ability, most nights of the week and even some daytime leagues. League openings vary, but Clasen said the website (fourseasonscurlingclub.com) has the most current offerings.
Four Seasons hoped to have 400 curlers take part in league play this winter season and it’s well on the way to reaching that goal with more than 300 already registered during the first week of January.
Participants have come from across the Twin Cities from Red Wing to Elk River and New Prague to Forest Lake.
Clasen hopes to expand the club’s offerings to include junior programs which could include high school and potentially collegiate leagues.
“We’ve been in touch with some community [education] programs about possibly involving some school programs but our focus right now is getting the adult leagues going,” he said.
Several colleges and universities in the area have asked about ice time, including St. John’s, Bethel, Hamline, Macalester and St. Thomas. The University of Minnesota and St. John’s University have active club-level teams and leagues.
What’s been in the works for more than five years culminated with the first eight-end competition at the newly finished arena.
Clasen said numerous obstacles have been overcome from the overall cost to builders increasing costs to reassessing the design and building a curling club from the ground up.
The only other club in the Twin Cities, St. Paul Curling Club, has been a tremendous asset for Clasen and his staff.
“They’ve been very, very helpful in the whole process,” he said. “They’ve given us everything we’ve asked for from financial statements to ideas about the club. A lot of their members have even volunteered their time with us and several members plan on becoming members of both clubs or want to join us in their off-season. We’re not really viewed as competition to them but rather taking some pressure off their rink.
“In our opinion the Twin Cities has room for at least three or four clubs.”
Four Seasons has been able to use the new locker rooms and ice sheet while the final touches are being completed on the bar and restaurant portion of the facility, which is located south of the existing hockey rinks.
Another result of adding an additional sheet of ice was the opportunity to add a new refrigeration system.
Clasen said the new system is really a cornerstone of the entire project.
The current system operating Fogerty’s two hockey ice sheets and rink floor is 30 years old and starting to show its age. The floor under the ice has had several small leaks in recent years which, as Clasen said, grow like cancer from corrosion of the cooling pipes and cracks in the concrete base.
“Last time we had to open up the concrete and replace a five- by eight-foot chunk of concrete plus many feet of tubing and over time it grows like cancer and you reach a point where you have to replace the entire floor,” he said.
The system installed for the curling facility, which is regarded as NHL-spec-levels (the best materials and system possible), uses ammonia (instead of Freon) to cool a calcium-choride solution which is piped through the floor at 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, is more environmentally friendly and uses more efficient motors that Clasen estimates will save $340,000.
“Basically we’re getting a curling rink for free by making the system upgrades now,” he said.
This isn’t the first notable upgrade at the facility.
When Fogerty Arena added the north rink in 2001, Clasen said a similar-level system was installed. They purchased a two-year-old system from a rink that went out of business in the eastern part of the United States. “At that time the chiller was considered the Cadillac of its time,” he said. “It’s industrial-level stuff and we bought the system from the bank and it is another system expected to last for at least 40 years. It’s been nothing short of unbelievable.”
The north rink has operated year-round since 2001. “The rink was designed to be used year-round and has a great system and humidity control and we hardly see a change in our utility bill from the dead of winter to the dead of summer,” Clasen said.
Within the last five years the arena added a white roof to help reflect heat and lower heating and cooling costs. Instead of attracting heat, the white coating reflects 86 percent of the heat away from the building, thus lowering the bills even more.
Fogerty added a corded-electric ice resurfacer in the early 1990s. It was the first of its kind to be put into full-time use after other prototypes had been used in Canada, according to Clasen.
“We worked out the initial bugs and it’s still running today, 19 years later and has been fantastic,” Clasen said. An electric edger is also used, he said.
The savings over a typical propane resurfacer comes in the fuel savings and the rink uses a back-up propane resurfacer.
The maintenance crew does most of its own service work and routine maintenance which helps keep the overall costs down. Clasen said they haven’t had a major catastrophic failure with any of the systems, “but it’s a lot of luck, too.”
From time to time parts breakdown, like a hydraulic component did on the corded resurfacer on the south rink.
Clasen said his crew was forced to put the propane resurfacer into action to keep the ice fresh for the next group or period of hockey.
That attention to maintaining the two hockey rink ice sheets to the highest possible standard has given Fogerty the reputation as two of the best rinks in the Twin Cities, according to Clasen.
Now with the addition of the curling sheet, hopes are to increase Fogerty’s reputation among more than hockey and figure skaters, Clasen said.