Home Featured Minnesota Energy Resources’ Rebate Program Helps Revitalize Outdated Recreation Center

Minnesota Energy Resources’ Rebate Program Helps Revitalize Outdated Recreation Center

Minnesota Energy Resources’ Rebate Program Helps Revitalize Outdated Recreation Center

Community Members Benefit From Energy Savings

CenterWhile indoor recreational facilities provide communities with the opportunity to gather, play or watch sports and have fun, these multifunctional buildings also consume a considerable amount of energy.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, for instance, has seen slight decreases in energy consumption at its indoor recreational facilities in recent years, but their energy use intensity remains greater than other public properties in the city of Minneapolis. The same is true in many other cities. For example, the Rochester Recreation Center, 90 minutes south of Minneapolis, wanted to make improvements but faced challenges in making updates to its 115,000-square-foot, “energy-eating” facility.


CenterThe Rochester Recreation Center, built in 1974, includes an ice arena, gymnasium, pool, offices and locker rooms to support various sports clubs and activities. The building is heavily used by the community, but the facility’s aging technology and HVAC units needed updates. Air quality in the Olympic-sized swimming pool was declining due to outdated units working overtime and wasting energy. Also, the ice rink’s air and ice quality could not be maintained because of dated and inefficient technology.

“The recreation center has been well-loved over the years by our community members,” said Ed Staiert, Rochester Recreation Center chief operations officer. “We knew we needed to keep pace with our growing, active community and invest in its health and recreational interests. To keep them coming back day after day, updates needed to happen.”

The City of Rochester had ambitious plans to improve its aging facility in order to give its community a better experience while implementing cost-saving efficiency improvements; however, the superior energy-management strategy mixed with modern technology would not fit in its regular capital improvement plan budget. A new way to save money without sacrificing energy-efficient equipment was needed.

“In a time where budgets are being cut and affecting every single decision, it was no different for the recreation center,” Staiert said. “Our team needed a creative solution to be able to fulfill all the upgrades we originally planned to complete because we did not want to let our community down.”


CenterStaiert and his team found financial assistance through the commercial Custom Rebate Program from Minnesota Energy Resources. The energy experts provided recommendations and support to help the center receive a variety of incentives. The results of the natural gas efficiency incentives were above and beyond what Staiert thought was possible. The City of Rochester received $47,676 in rebates and anticipates natural gas savings of over $24,000 in the following year.

“We were very excited to support the Rochester Recreation Center,” said Paul O’Sullivan, Minnesota Energy Resources senior external relations representative. “We’re all about sustainability and longevity at Minnesota Energy Resources, not only for the environment, but also for communities, like Rochester.”

The partnership between Minnesota Energy Resources and the recreation center was mutually beneficial.

“We improved environmental conditions inside and outside of our facility,” Staiert said. “And the rebate savings were important to help us manage our budget. We started with this roadblock of having a small budget and ended up receiving more benefits than we could have imagined.”


Control systems were modernized to enable more strategic air-quality management in the pool, ice arena, gym and offices. This improved the performance of existing air handling units, making it unnecessary to invest in new units. In the ice arena, upgrades enhanced the quality of the ice and the air. New ice surface water deaerators were installed to improve ice conditions while reducing hot water use. Zambonis will use treated water instead of solely hot water, which will result in a clean surface with minimal bubbles.

“The surface water deaerators are a great upgrade because they easily replaced the former process in the recreation center,” O’Sullivan said.

Prior to the improvements, the facility’s chillers were wasting heat. In fairness, that is the job of a chiller — a large machine that takes heat from the arena and exhausts it outdoors. This process makes it possible to make and maintain ice indoors, while keeping it comfortable for skaters. It also wastes a lot of heat.

To address this problem, renovations included innovative methods to effectively recycle energy from exhaust heat, rather than simply expelling it outdoors. The heat produced by the chillers is now used to melt ice shavings in the snow melt pit, supply radiant heat in the arena and heat water for the facility.

“The best resources through the rebate program are the energy and rebate experts,” Staiert said. “The experts were able to help us identify where there was wasted energy and how we could effectively reallocate it elsewhere.”

The Custom Rebate Program is perfect for projects that do not qualify for Minnesota Energy Resources’ prescriptive rebates such as water heating, insulation, furnace, boiler heating systems and ENERGY STAR certification. Custom rebates are able to reduce monthly energy costs and shorten the payback period for the new equipment.

“One thing we can always continuously improve is our energy conservation,” O’Sullivan said. “It is a win for not only the center because of the savings but also the environment.”

According to O’Sullivan, the City of Rochester Recreation Center project will save about 4,767 decatherms annually and reduce overall operating costs.

“The rebate programs are a great benefit to the communities we serve,” O’Sullivan said. “Those businesses help us continue our mission to deliver natural gas safely and reliably while lowering their costs.”

On swim meet days, more than 1,000 spectators surrounding the swimming pool can now comfortably cheer on their favorite team. The 2,500 ice hockey fans will see how the ice quality has increased. Community members throughout the gymnasium and meeting rooms will feel a difference in the air quality. Behind the scenes, the recreation center will save money to reinvest in its community members while leaving a smaller environmental footprint.