BEMIDJI -- Ice installation at any Minnesota rink is a moment worth looking forward to each winter. The ice laid in Bemidji this week, however, was decades in the making.
The new second rink at the Bemidji Community Arena, dubbed the Sanford POWER Rink, will officially welcome skaters next week. The ice was installed this week and the finishing touches were being added Thursday as the hockey markings and logos were painted onto the ice.
“It’s the realization of a 20-year plan,” said BCA Corp. President Dale Thompson. “It’s pretty cool. … Very gratifying.”
A grand opening would have been held if not for the pandemic, though such an event has been delayed for now.
The overall 101,000-square-foot complex will continue to be known as the Bemidji Community Arena, though its two rinks will bear new names.
The new addition will be called the Sanford POWER Rink after a partnership between Sanford Health and the arena corporation was announced in July. The original arena will now be known as First National Arena thanks to the support First National Bank Bemidji has provided the arena project.
“It’s wonderful for the community at large because it will be used by multiple organizations,” Thompson said of the new rink. “It’s quite an accomplishment to be able to construct two arenas largely devoid of government subsidies or government assistance and operated in the same manner without government assistance or government support.”
The original rink will continue to host Bemidji High School boys and girls hockey games and other larger events, such as tournament championship games, due to its 2,000-person capacity. The new arena, which has a 500-spectator capacity, will also host youth and adult hockey games.
The Bemidji Youth Hockey Association will be the facility’s primary tenant.
The arena corporation and Bemidji Area Schools are working toward making the facility the permanent home of BHS boys and girls hockey for both games and practices, Thompson said, though that has not yet been finalized. While the Lumberjacks play home games at the BCA, the teams have usually practiced across town at the Nymore Arena.
Ground was broken on the original arena in 2000. The facility has been built in multiple phases with initial fundraising beginning in the late 1990s. Construction on the new rink began in August 2018.
The fundraising effort for the expansion project has raised about $4.3 million and is approaching its goal of approximately $4.8 million.
“We’re significantly closer. We have approximately $500,000 remaining to raise to service all our debt,” Thompson said. “Sanford Health was a large part of being able to help us get over the hump to secure enough funds upfront to get the arena done.”
Sanford Health will provide year-round training services as part of its Sanford POWER program that will be available to athletes and community members. Sanford will lease dedicated space in the facility that will be divided into two areas: One will offer year-around training for hockey athletes of all ages, and the other will be for all athletes and community members to access Sanford POWER training.
The Sanford-leased areas are expected to open in approximately one month.
The new arena boasts additional locker rooms, bringing the facility’s total to 13. New concession stands and warmed viewing areas have also been built, and a new electric Zamboni has been purchased.