The East Grand Forks Civic Center was built with a true grassroots effort

East Grand Forks businessman Bob Peabody was the president of the city council when the Civic Center was built in 1974-75. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

In a drawer in the back of his Lumber Mart corner office in East Grand Forks, owner Bob Peabody -- now 82 years old -- has the original architecture plans for what was meant to be displayed at the East Grand Forks Civic Center hockey arena.

Part of those plans called for a cornerstone brick to proclaim the arena was built by the East Grand Forks City Council Building Committee.

Peabody was the president of the city council and chairman of the building committee in the early 1970s and a key force behind the construction of the arena, but he wasn't about to let anyone but the volunteers be recognized for the construction of the Civic Center.

"That is in my drawer back here because there was no way I was going to allow that in the building and recognize a bunch of people that didn't lift a finger to help," Peabody said. "It was built by the people of the community. Everything from doctors to lawyers to painters to electricians."

Peabody also can flip through the arena-opening program in his office, which was distributed during a ceremony on April 20, 1975. It lists the names of all the people in the community that donated time, supplies and money to finish the building.


"These are real people and companies that personally worked their fanny off to see to it it could come to fruition," Peabody said.

Bob Peabody's dedication program for the East Grand Forks Civic Center on April 20, 1975.

The community-wide effort is notable again this weekend, as East Grand Forks is encouraging people to vote for the town for the Kraft Hockeyville USA distinction, which would trigger a $150,000 prize to be put toward upgrades to a building pushing 50 years old.

The vote begins Saturday and ends Sunday.

Before the Civic Center could be constructed, organizers needed approval from the city to use public funds.


"There was no secret we were going to have to go to the public and vote," Peabody said. "Our organization was smart enough to get to the teachers and the school system. We got their backing. When we asked the city, it was like 70 percent approval. We had the momentum we needed."

The arena was originally painted green and yellow -- not because it jived with East Grand Forks Senior High's school colors -- but because it was John Deere colors and local farmers had extra paint on hand.

"It was all done by labor performed by the people in the community," Peabody said. "And I mean the people in the community."

Archie Krum, a significant figure in getting the arena project off the ground, donated the concrete for the building.

A new organization -- the Blue Line Club -- was formed of members with an interest in pushing the construction of the arena. The club, which Peabody said was important because arena hopefuls needed an invested group beyond the city, were re-energized by the gift of Krum and went door-to-door to collect donations.

"It took off like wildfire," Peabody said.

The locker room area was done by masons after hours.

"People who didn't know anything about laying brick found out really quick what mud and mortar were," Peabody said.


At one point in the construction, three truckloads of sod arrived unannounced to keep the building warm during the winter.

"There were things that happened ... I know how they happened but nobody else knows how they happened," Peabody said.

The East Grand Forks Civic Center rink is flooded for the first time in 1974 in this photo. From left to right, Bob Keske, Jim McCord, Bob Peabody and Gary Olson.

There was also a blessing in disguise when construction was halted for the entire 1973-74 winter because steel had been difficult to obtain.

During that pause, Peabody and other organizers decided to expand the footprint -- an extra 32 feet on the north end of the arena to allow a full horseshoe concourse around the rink.

The now 52,000-square foot building broke ground July 24, 1973 and had its first activity Nov. 23, 1974.

The Civic Center was the first indoor rink for East Grand Forks. Before it was built, outdoor rinks with barrel stoves at Sherlock Park, Stauss Park and Folson Park were the only options. If you wanted to get indoors at UND, practices were allowed but not high school games. And those practices needed to start at 6 a.m.


Peabody said he knows the Civic Center needs upgrades, and he's also aware the hurdles for raising money are different in 2020 than they were 45 years ago. He pointed to the dedication program, which he said features 75 advertisements. He believes 60 of those businesses no longer exist.

"So times change, people change," Peabody said. "The building is what it is."

Peabody, who overcame a battle with polio as a child, led the UND hockey team to its first national championship in 1959. UND beat St. Lawrence and Michigan State in back-to-back overtime games in Troy, N.Y.

East Grand Forks has become a power in Minnesota Class A hockey in the last decade. The Green Wave won back-to-back state championships in 2014 and 2015.

A look at the front page of the Grand Forks Herald on March 2, 1991, shows the East Grand Forks Civic Center with more than 4,000 fans prior to a Minnesota Section 8 boys hockey tournament championship game. Roseau beat Brainerd in double overtime.

East Grand Forks businessman Bob Peabody was the president of the city council when the Civic Center was built in 1974-75. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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