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Vets Arena gets makeover

Veterans Memorial Arena recently finished construction on a new set of bleachers, as well as a new walking track. The stadium re-opened to visitors in early August. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer

The wooden bleachers were old and rickety; the walking track, merely a worn out hand-me-down. For years, the West Fargo Park District had wanted to update some of the most used structures at Veterans Memorial Arena.

This summer, it did just that.

"We've done a bit of upgrading," said Barb Erbstoesser, West Fargo Park District Director. "It's looking good and it's ready for the upcoming season."

With the budgeted $240,000 project now complete, visitors are welcome to check out the fresh amenities at Vets Arena, located at 1201 7th Ave E, adjacent to West Fargo High School. Just be warned: some changes, especially with the layout, may take regulars off guard.

The bleachers, originally on the arena's south wall, have been flip-flopped to the north, opposite of the locker rooms. Conversely, a new press box also has been installed. Rounding out the projects are the replacement of the drab 1/8th-mile track, and a fresh coat of paint to cover the interior.

But maybe the most noticeable aspect of the works will be picked up quickest by Packer fans and their opponents.

"Everything has a green theme now," Erbstoesser said.

Seven-hundred-and-fifty curved, plastic seats now greet spectators' backsides instead of the old, unforgiving wood. And the whole unit extends and retracts by the push of a button - in 35 seconds, no less. A world of difference compared to the previous method, which according to Erbstoesser, "almost required a football team to pull out and put back."

The new track should receive positive reviews, as well. The semi-forgiving, composite multi-use flooring is produced by Mondo, a company responsible for supplying many Olympic venues with non-slip surfaces, Erbstoesser said.

Reuse and recycle

It certainly was time for an upgrade, especially considering the actual age of the track and bleachers.

Vets Arena's wooden bleachers were installed in the mid 1990's, but they weren't new. Back then, Hawley (Minn.) High School was replacing their set, and the West Fargo Park District decided to save some money and utilize them.

"They needed to replace their bleachers, so we removed them ourselves," Erbstoesser said. "We brought them (to Vets Arena) and did some modifications, such as adding guard rails, so they were safe for the public."

It was the same story with the walking path. At roughly a half century old, it was an accident waiting to happen.

"We wanted to avoid any liability issues," Erbstoesser said. "It needed to go."

In 1990, Concordia College in Moorhead was throwing away its track, circa 1960. In came the West Fargo Park District to scavenge the bits for its own use, and to keep the rubber out of the landfill.

"The track was at the end of its life of one user when we took it, and we got another 20 years out of it," Erbstoesser said. "I'd say that's pretty good.

Besides the track, Vets Arena's new flooring also extends into the locker rooms, which should help keep ice skate good and sharp.

But with the Park District's "green" history, what of the now defunct amenities?

For starters, steel from the old bleachers was brought to a recycler, she said, and the money received from the scrap metal was put directly back into the construction of the new system.

Likewise, instead of throwing away the wood from the bleacher, it has been salvaged to be utilized in other projects.

"We've been recycling for a long time here at the Park District," Erbstoesser said.

Replacing old and worn-out with new has created quite a fresh feel to the multi-use facility. The West Fargo Park District had been talking about the upgrades for some time, too, Erbstoesser said.

"This is something we've had on our long-range radar for some time," she said.

Add in the bleachers and track with other recent updates at Veterans Arena - a new Zamboni last year and a refurbished concession stand in 2008 - the place is hardly recognizable.

"The arena opened to the public in 1989, and it's just like a brand new building," Erbstoesser said.

The facelift likely will not be overlooked by the public, and certainly is appreciated by the coaches.

"I just have to thank the Park Board and the Park District for doing such a great job," West Fargo boys hockey coach Tim Capouch said. "It's incredible."