Board looking for way to accommodate both high schools at new hockey facility
The West Fargo School Board will hold a special meeting Monday, June 20, to decide how to move forward with a new hockey facility after finding out that the current design was not conducive for both West Fargo and Sheyenne high schools to compete and practice on.
On Monday, June 13, the School Board got an updated design for the facility it plans to build at the northwest corner of 32nd Avenue South and Sheyenne Street. The board planned to build a two-sheet ice hockey facility for about $16.5 million as part of the $98.1 million bond referendum package that voters passed in November.
During the design process, the district's architects, JLG Architects, found that construction on a 75,000-square-foot facility would cost much more than the $11.9 million the district planned.
So, JLG scaled down to a 65,000-square-foot facility that would cost about $13 million to build. Under the most current design, one sheet of ice would have seating for about 1,000 and be used for games, while the second sheet, with seating for about 225, would be used for practice.
Under JLG's design, while they would likely be able to schedule around using one sheet of ice for competition and the other for practice, there is not enough locker rooms for two varsity teams.
Just before Monday's meeting, Business Manager Mark Lemer met with West Fargo High School Activities Director Jay DeCann and hockey coaches who said they would not want to play games at the new facility if they couldn't practice there as well.
"They don't want their competition venue to be their away ice," Lemer said. He said coaches feel that if the only time they play at the new facility is on game nights, they might as well be playing in Grand Forks.
The Packers team, which is still composed of players from both high schools due to the lack of available ice, practices and competes at Veterans Memorial High School, which is operated by the West Fargo Parks District.
School Board President Patti Stedman said the board told the public the hockey facility, like the planned aquatic facility, would be shared equally between the two schools. Board member Dave Olson said if West Fargo High School continued to play at the older Veterans Memorial Arena, it would lead to inequity between the two programs.
"I'm struggling with this. Why wouldn't the Packers want to be playing on this state-of-the-art, multimillion-dollar facility?" Olson said. "At what point do we say as a district, your competition has to be in this facility."
Since the newest design is still more than estimated, the board decided Monday to ask JLG to look at a design that will get that additional locker room space and accommodate both high schools, then estimate what the additional cost will be by next week.
To accommodate a more expensive plan, the board will likely have to use contingency funds from other bond projects that have not yet been used, Lemer said.
"One of the things I have to keep reminding myself is, this is still just an estimate," Lemer said. "As we actually get in into hiring [subcontractors] and that far, we might find that we may not be spending at this level."
On Monday the School District did approve selling 5.81 acres of the hockey facility land to a developer that owns land nearby for about $1.3 million.
When the district bought the 12.97 acres of land, officials hoped to work with the city on a master plan that could include nearby restaurants and a city center of sorts on the same site as the hockey facility.
The School District will sell the land on the eastern part of the property to the developer but buy 2.67 acres on the west side for $403,000, to make sure it has enough room for the hockey facility and a potential third sheet of ice in the future.
Through the land swap, the district will make a net profit of $903,274.
The special School Board meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, June 20, at the Leidal Education Center.