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Archie Ingersoll, Published February 27 2009

Grand Forks arena files suit over ice system

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The ice in Ralph Engelstad Arena hovers just above 20 degrees – the ideal temperature for hockey.

But inches below the surface, there’s a multimillion-dollar problem, according to the Grand Forks arena.

The Ralph says the systems that make ice in both rinks in the landmark arena weren’t built to agreed-upon specifications.

“The whole system is just running inefficiently,” said Pat Morley, REA’s attorney. “As a result, the maintenance and energy costs are … way, way too high.”

Because of this alleged inefficiency, REA has brought a lawsuit against CIMCO, a Canadian company that installed the rinks and the ice-making equipment.

But Mark Hanson, CIMCO’s attorney, argues that his client’s work is not causing The Ralph’s problem.

“We frankly don’t see any issues with the equipment and how it was installed,” he said. “We just believe the arena needs to make adjustments.”

The case is set to go trial in October.

The Ralph has no issue making good ice, but the arena has to take unusual steps to get that ice, Morley said.

He said the ideal temperature for hockey ice is somewhere between 20 and 22 degrees. And industry standards dictate that the coolant running beneath the ice should be chilled to 6 to 10 degrees below the ice temperature, Morley said.

Yet to get good ice, he said, The Ralph has to overwork its machines to chill the coolant to about zero degrees, while its contract with CIMCO specified that temperature at 15 degrees.

To resolve the dispute, Morley said the arena is requesting the following:

The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.