About a month ago, copper thieves struck at St. Paul's most popular ice skating rinks, stealing more than 256 feet of copper pipe from the Phalen Recreation Center -- but local businesses lent a helping hand to repair the rinks in time for the holidays.
NAC Mechanical and Electrical Services and their supply partner, Mulcahy Company, Inc., donated all labor and materials required to get the refrigerated outdoor rinks back up and running.
"We're rooted in this community, and so is this rink," said Lynn Bishop, president of NAC Mechanical and Electrical Services. "We couldn't let this rink be taken from the kids and families of St. Paul, and we had a solution to prevent this from happening again."
After more than a week of work, the repairs are now finished and the rink is ready, officials say.
Previously, the city's Parks and Recreation Department believed the theft would put the beginning of the skating season in jeopardy while costing the city upwards of $20,000 to fix using similar materials. The scrap value of the stolen copper is estimated at a few hundred dollars.
Though St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman gave the department clear directions to get the rink back open as soon as possible while researching alternatives to copper, the two companies offered a plastic-based composite material called "Heat-link," which has little or no scrap value and can still withstand the elements in Minnesota.
"St. Paul's refrigerated ice rinks are tremendous community assets, and the rink at Phalen is one of the best -- and most used -- in the region," said Coleman. "What those 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 in help us out."
There are more than 20 free outdoor ice rinks available to the public in St. Paul, including three permanent, refrigerated rinks at Phalen, North Dale and Palace Recreation Centers. Those refrigerated rinks can add as many as six weeks to the skating season and offer high ice quality to more than 100,000 skaters each year.