Five Olympians recently swapped stones and brooms for shovels during a long-awaited ground breaking of a curling rink at Blaine’s Fogerty Arena.
Former U.S. Olympic team members John Benton, Jessica Schultz, John Shuster, Cassie Johnson Potter and John Gordon attended the May 31 event.
They were joined by the Fogerty Arena Board of Directors, Blaine and Spring Lake Park city leaders and Anoka County Commissioner Robyn West.
The $3.7 million Fogerty Curling Rink is scheduled to open later this fall.
The 28,100 square-foot addition next to the south rink will feature six curling lanes on a dedicated sheet of year-round ice, a restaurant, lounge, men’s and women’s locker rooms and 100 additional parking stalls.
The new parking will be available for other events and activities in nearby Aquatore Park. Greystone Construction Co, Shakopee, is the curling rink’s general contractor.
“This project has been nearly four years in the making,” said Board President Paul Conery. “A number of people have touched this project and moved it along. They are numerous.”
Conery specifically mentioned Blaine City Manager Clark Arneson, Anoka County Board members, the St. Paul Curling Club and a partnership of local banks that includes Lake Community Bank in Long Lake, Blaine State Bank, 10107 University Ave., N.E., and Maple Bank in Champlin.
Mayor Tom Ryan was equally enthusiastic when discussing the project.
“The last time we worked with Greystone Construction [on this site], it was on the Fogerty North Rink expansion,” Ryan said.
The Fogerty Arena Board of Directors is a nine-member volunteer board that oversees arena management and operations.
Of those nine directors, four represent Blaine Youth Hockey and two represent Spring Lake Park Youth Hockey, one represents the city of Blaine, one represents Anoka County and one is a director-at-large.
The city and the county appoint their representatives on an annual basis and all other directors serve three-year terms.
“For the past 30 years, many hockey moms and dads have driven their kids to Fogerty,” West said. “They had passion, and their coaches fostered a love of that game. The next 30 years are about to begin. This facility will create construction and staffing jobs in Anoka County, as well as bring spectators to Blaine.”
Benton said curling represents a family and community sport that will enrich the historic Blaine hockey facility, better known by the moniker “The Ice House.”
“Curling is a great way to meet people and learn about life,” he said. “I’m proud and excited there will be more curling ice, and potentially more events.”
Schultz and Shuster, 2006 U.S. curling team members, concurred with Benton.
Schultz predicted curling would be adopted by the Blaine sporting community.
Shuster added, “The fact that it will open in November will mean a lot to the Twin Cities curling community. Kids will be able to get into this sport.”
Gordon, a 1998 and 2002 Olympian, has a grandson who lives less than a mile from Fogerty Arena.
“He’ll be able to ride his bike here if he wants to play. All of the kids in Blaine will embrace this,” he said. “Everybody wants to be like this city when it comes to facilities. This club will continue to make Blaine No. 1.”
Fogerty Board of Directors member John Bauer was heavily involved in the ice arena’s original construction 31 years ago.
Bauer said the financing package for the new Blaine curling arena includes money for key improvements.
“We are going to replace the south rink floor a year from now and part of the bank loan will help us pay for that,” he said. “This is going to be a nice deal and good fit for Blaine. Come back in five or six months and you will be amazed.”
According to Arena Manager Mark Clasen, curling’s popularity has surged with every Winter Olympics.
It’s the Fogerty Board of Directors’ intention to have the curling ice and programs well-established before the 2014 Winter Olympics in order to benefit from an expected awareness boost.
The six new ice sheets (lanes) could help Fogerty Arena become a future training facility for the men’s or women’s U.S. Olympic curling teams, Clasen said.
According to Clasen, the project’s development timing is good because it responds to an unmet curling community need.
The St. Paul Curling Club, the nation’s largest, currently has hundreds of people on its waiting list. The club was an active participant in encouraging the Fogerty Board to Directors to build a new rink.
Curling profits will help keep ice costs down and reduce debt service for area hockey associations while improving the facility’s physical plant, Clasen said.
The Fogerty Curling Club is setting up participation and organizational meetings now. For more information, go to www.FogertyArena.com or call 763-780-3328.
Tim Hennagir is at [email protected]