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Moorhead arena to undergo $8 million upgrade, then be renamed Cullen Hockey Center

A view of the renovated and expanded Moorhead Youth Hockey Association arena after it's renamed "Cullen Hockey Center” in August 2019. The arena, 707 Main Ave. S.E., will be equipped with a third sheet of ice added to the north side of the existing facility. ICON Architectural Group 1 / 3
The Cullen Hockey Center once complete. ICON Architectural Group 2 / 3
A view of the Cullen Hockey Center. Included in the $8 million, two-phase project is additional parking and a facade facelift. ICON Architectural Group 3 / 3

MOORHEAD — The Moorhead Youth Hockey Association plans to help renovate and expand a city-owned arena it uses to add a third sheet of ice, then re-name it "Cullen Hockey Center."

The Moorhead City Council unanimously approved the first of two phases to improve the arena, 707 Main Ave. S.E., estimated to cost a total of $8 million. The city intends to issue taxpayer-backed bonds to pay for the upgrades in phase one. The addition of a third sheet of ice in phase two will be mostly funded by MYHA donations.

"It's a big step for us to be working with the city on this project and have the council's support," said MYHA executive director Rob Gramer following a Monday, Nov. 27, council meeting.

Gramer said the Cullen family is the lead donor for the project, but he would not disclose how much the family is committed to contributing to the arena.

The future name of the facility honors Moorhead native and three-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Cullen, and his father, Terry, a former varsity hockey coach at Moorhead High School, where Matt graduated from in 1995. Matt currently plays for the Minnesota Wild.

"Our board of directors thought it was very fitting to name the facility the Cullen Hockey Center in recognition of not only Terry's, Matt's and their family's incredible hockey accomplishments over the past 30-plus years, but also their contributions to our hockey program, our community and this project," Gramer said. "The impact they have had on our hockey program and community is immeasurable and will be felt by generations to come."

Ice expansion

Gramer said MYHA anticipates renovations of the 61,350-square-foot facility to kick off this April and be completed by August 2019.

The first phase will include replacing the roof on the 20-year-old building as well as the vapor barriers and insulation. The existing two rinks will be remodeled and the ice power plant will be upgraded to support a third sheet of ice, which is to come in the second phase of the project.

The city will issue a $2 million bond for the first phase of the project, and pay $850,000 to replace the roof, vapor barrier and insulation.

Mayor Del Rae Williams said the roof has been problematic for years, with ongoing repairs needed, and the city has a responsibility to address issues previously identified in a city-wide facilities assessment.

MYHA arena manager Dennis Bushy echoed the mayor, saying outdated machinery and a leaky roof have taken its toll on the building and there needs to be improvements to support the organization. "Thank goodness our leadership and the city of Moorhead realize this and have taken initial steps to replace them," Bushy wrote in an email to The Forum.

Phase two of the project includes construction of a new entrance, lobby and third sheet of ice added to the north side of the existing facility. Repairs to the parking lot with additional space and a facade facelift — along with the new name — are also part of the second phase, estimated to cost $5 million.

Williams said the partnership with MYHA to improve the facility without impacting taxpayers through the use of bonds is "valuable." City staff indicated that the project will not be paid for through property taxes, she said, but financial details are still being worked out and will be discussed at the council's next meeting Monday, Dec. 11.

"We are clearly very proud of our hockey teams in Moorhead," Williams said. "Getting an addition like this will be something the community will really like."

There are more than 50 teams in the youth hockey association, which has been a pillar in the community since 1965, Gramer said. With the limited availability of ice, teams can practice anywhere from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"We want to ease that burden on our kids and families with that time-crunch," he said.

Moorhead High School boys hockey coach Jon Ammerman said in an email to The Forum that there are "growing pains" with the strong youth hockey program and more ice in the community is necessary for more families and players to participate.

"It is an exciting development and one that will allow for our kids to play in Moorhead more often and practice at more reasonable times," Ammerman said.

City Council member Melissa Fabian, an MYHA volunteer with sons currently and formerly playing for the association, said she's excited about the expansion and its economic impact. MYHA brought roughly a million dollars to the community through home tournaments last year, she said, drawing teams from across the region.

"The additional rink will allow MYHA to increase their role as an economic driver in our community," Fabian said in an email to The Forum, adding that the expansion will lend to bigger tournaments and more off-season opportunities for the facility to serve as an event center.

Fabian added that the expansion will positively impact families, grow MYHA membership and strengthen the organization and community overall.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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