Advocates for new Grand Forks hockey rink pushing ahead in stages

Advocates for adding a $7 million hockey arena to Grand Forks' landscape are in the educational stage. The start of the arm-twisting stage is uncertain.

John Staley

Advocates for adding a $7 million hockey arena to Grand Forks' landscape are in the educational stage. The start of the arm-twisting stage is uncertain.

"The big picture is that we have to inform the public that there is a need first," said Gary Harris, the Grand Forks Park District Foundation's developmental director.

"That awareness phase will go on until we think we have saturated the population about what this is all about."

It's about securing more ice time for hockey players and figure skaters, Harris said. That message has been given to three service groups, with eight more on his schedule.

After the presentations and before the public campaign, the district hopes to sell the arena's naming rights for $2 million. Soliciting pledges are at least "months away," Park District Director John Staley said.


Already promised is $2.5 million from the Grand Forks Blue Line Club, a youth hockey organization that gets most of its money from charitable gaming. The Blue Line Club already has its name on an arena near Red River High School.

With the naming rights money and the Blue Line Club pledge, another $2.5 million would be needed from a public campaign.

"We can't build until we get it all pledged," Staley said.

An ice time need

Harris' pitch includes comparing Grand Forks' skating facilities to two other so-called hockey towns.

"Roseau has three rinks and 250 kids and hosts 10 youth tournaments a season," he said. "East Grand Forks has three rinks, 400 kids and six tournaments. Grand Forks has four rinks, 1,500 kids and one tournament."

The $7 million facility would be located near Choice Health and Fitness on the 41 acres owned by the Park District on the far south end. It would have two ice sheets under its roof, with each having seating for 500. The facility would be the home to youth hockey and figure skating competitions on weekends.

"One 24-team tournament on a weekend can bring more than $310,000 into our economy," Harris said. "Besides the need for more tournaments, there is a need for more places to practice."


The arena will have eight dressing rooms, with $50,000 commitments for naming rights for three of them.

Hockey has its backers

The fund-raising effort comes on the heels of raising $28 million in donations, sponsorships and leases to remodel the YMCA and build Choice Health & Fitness, which is expected to be ready by Sept. 1.

Staley said it isn't too soon to start another campaign after the Choice effort, which took four years.

"There is still a lot of money out there and people who are more motivated toward hockey than health and fitness," Staley said.

He said fund-raising may take two years or more.

"You don't want to draw any lines in the sand for a timetable," he said. "That can be a death knell. You start it, see how people are interested and go from there."

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send email to .

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