FARGO — The Fargo Sports Complex may be getting ice after all.
After plans for an ice rink at the new 260,000-square-foot facility in south Fargo were initially scrapped last year, the topic resurfaced at Tuesday’s Fargo Park Board meeting with a call to add two youth ice sheets to the $77.6 million complex which broke ground in early May .
After a discussion that lasted just under one hour, the board voted unanimously to direct staff to investigate a predesign phase for adding two sheets of ice to the sports complex and to determine an estimated cost for the additions. As part of the motion, the city’s finance department will also analyze potential mechanisms to help fund the construction of the ice sheets with the information to be brought to the facilities department for review later this month.
Although four new ice rinks have been built in the metro area since 2016, the need for more ice in the city of Fargo alone still exists according to Fargo Youth Hockey Association board president Jennifer Thompson, who spoke at Tuesday’s Park Board meeting.
“Since 2009, the increase in participation in youth hockey in Fargo is 41%,” Thompson told the board. “Even during COVID, we only saw a 3% decrease in participation in our organization and now we’re back on track to the growth that we had before.
“It makes sense, especially as far as our membership is concerned, because 60% of our membership — kids that play hockey — live south of 32nd Avenue, so it just makes sense for some additional ice to go in south Fargo.”
Paul Noah, a coach and volunteer in the second youth hockey organization within Fargo city limits — Angels Hockey — was also on hand to plead his case for new ice. The Angels have utilized Angels Arena (formerly Sunmart Arena) in north Fargo for more than 15 years, but will be unable to call it home for much longer.
“This is all about the kids,” Noah said. “Everybody in the Freeze organization and the Angels — it’s needed. The biggest from our standpoint — the Angels — we’re at the old Sunmart Arena that’s been the Angels Arena for the last 15 or 18 years, and arguably it should’ve been condemned the day we moved in there. It’s a facility that’s just going away. We’ve got a one year reprieve on it, so we need ice.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve been working on fundraising. We had somebody who was going to donate some land over in West Fargo, we’ve been actively looking for donations and looking to fill the need in this community. One thing that had struck me in just the last six weeks or so in visiting with the Freeze, when you’ve got 60% of the kids living south of 32nd Avenue and there’s not a facility down there, then you’re creating your own destiny. Parents aren’t going to bring their kids as far as I bring my kids to go to a rink. It’s too difficult and too cumbersome. I think it’s just a shame and we’ve got to address that.
“That’s the biggest thing from my perspective that needs to be filled in the city of Fargo. So hopefully we can work together. We’ve been at it trying to get some fundraising and hopefully we can kind of redirect it and have it a win-win for everybody in this room and also for the kids.
Current plans for the sports complex entail a full-sized indoor soccer turf, four full-sized basketball courts, administrative offices, a multipurpose community space, a 350-meter indoor walking track and will also house the Sanford POWER program.
The facility is expected to be completed in 2024 and will benefit more than 13,000 children in its first year of operation.
Park Board member Stacey Griggs noted that added ice time for various age groups, as well as a spike in participation of girls hockey in Fargo, helps justify the addition of the sheets.
“The thing that stands out to me is that the access for kids ages 4 to 9 get pushed out of their recommended ice time based on the American Development Model because the bigger kids need the ice for competition, and so they get pushed out of practices,” Griggs said. “There are about 1,000 kids in our community who participate in hockey, and girls hockey has grown over 56% in the last decade.”
Griggs also echoed Noah’s statement of the soon-to-be closed Angels Arena which will displace many other local sports groups as well.
“The Sunmart Arena is going to go away in 2023,” she said. “Some of the things that happen at Sunmart Arena are sled hockey, there are figure skaters, and there are other groups who need homes. Broomball, open skating and adult leagues will benefit, as well, to ice.
“If we looked at two sheets of ice at the Fargo Parks Sports Complex, it really nets one extra sheet of ice in our community. It also brings a partnership with the Fargo Park District and the youth hockey organizations in our community to build together instead of us build our facility and potentially someone else builds a facility somewhere else in our community.”
A memorandum of understanding between the Park District, Fargo Youth Hockey and Angels Hockey was presented to the board to be signed, but no action on the document was taken with the board instead favoring the idea to direct city staff to investigate design and funding processes further.
The topic will likely be taken to the Facilities Committee at the end of June.