Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Leaders of Moorhead’s booming hockey community celebrated Friday, Nov. 8, at the official opening of the second phase of the Moorhead Youth Hockey Association’s multi-year expansion project. The ribbon-cutting – scheduled during the arena’s first major event, the Blue Ox Bantam tournament, with 24 teams of 14- and 15-year-old skaters – drew familiar names, including three whose names are on the building: donor and Moorhead hockey great Matt Cullen, donor Steve Scheel, and Dennis Bushy, who has managed the local organization for more than 40 years.
In addition to building namesakes Cullen and Scheel, the arena’s new rink bears the name of major donor Sanford Health. Other the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, First International Bank and Icon Architects, along with hundreds of smaller individual and business donations.
The ribbon-cutting marks completion of a third 250- by 300-foot ice rink, the final stage of MYHA’s $9 million expansion. The $3.5 million first phase included replacement of the building’s aging infrastructure, including a new plant and roof. Phase I was funded with $1 million from the city, which owns the building and land, plus $2 million in 25-year bonds to be repaid from operating revenue.
Other improvements include an expanded lobby, renovated and new dressing rooms and improvements to the parking lot and traffic flow. An additional entrance on the north side helps accommodate parents and visitors during busy periods.
Mayor Johnathan Judd – himself a member of MYHA – emphasized the economic development aspect of the project. As part of Moorhead’s new gateway along Highway 52, which includes the 20/21st Street underpass now under construction, it presents an impressive first glimpse to the thousands of players and visitors drawn to tournaments.
Another opportunity, said F-M CVB director Charley Johnson, is that all three rinks are accessible for sled hockey. He predicted tournaments seeking adaptive facilities will make Moorhead a first choice for regional and national events. “The economic impact of all the tournaments and the visitors they bring can’t be understated,” he noted.
Cullen, who (with father Terry Cullen) is both a veteran of and a lead donor to MYHA, cited the pleasure of watching the sunrise through expansive east-facing windows in the new rink as he coaches his son’s Pee Wee team there at 6 a.m.
“With almost 60 teams and 600 skaters – all ages, from 4 to 18, boys and girls – scheduling has been a real challenge,” executive director Rob Gramer observed. “This is going to really release the pressure. It helps us fulfill our mission to provide access for every child who wants to play.”