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Arena: legacy of hockey, figure skating and even dog shows – Albert Lea Tribune

Arena: legacy of hockey, figure skating and even dog shows – Albert Lea Tribune


Arena: Legacy of hockey, figure skating and even dog shows

Published Tuesday, April 2, 2024 at 4:41 PM

Editor's note: The following is the third of four stories related to the facilities included in the upcoming referendum for the City of Albert Lea.

What do hockey, figure skating and dog shows have in common? In Albert Lea, they are all located at the City Arena, 701 Lake Chapeau Drive. For nearly 50 years, the arena has supported a variety of recreation, a testament to Albert Lea's commitment to recreation for all generations.

The city converted the former Lea College Field House into an ice arena in the mid-1970s. It opened in 1976 with a ribbon cutting by then-Mayor Paul Larimore and representatives from School District 241. The first hockey players on the ice represented two Park League Squirts teams. Members of the Albert Lea Figure Skating Club performed in the Nutcracker Suite.

Twenty-two years later, hockey advocates and the city worked together to build the second layer of ice. Thanks to careful maintenance, the original cooling system still functions after 26 years. Often called the back ice, it is officially called the Colstrup Rink after Carol Colstrup, one of the figure skating club's founders and longtime coach. The front ice is named the Nystrom Rink, after Roy Nystrom, a longtime coach of the Albert Lea High School boys hockey team.

Over the decades, the arena has supported many levels of hockey, from mite to college, plus numerous other activities. The arena is home to the Albert Lea Hockey Association, high school hockey teams, figure skating club, Freeborn County Kennel Club (off-ice) and Waldorf University hockey teams from Forest City.

With 49,000 visitors per year, 220 hockey games, plus 10 to 12 tournaments per season, an annual dog show and an annual figure skating show, the arena is the city's most used facility.

The Recreation Department estimates the economic impact of youth hockey alone at $1 million per season spent on local hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

In recent years, the city has replaced the roof of the flat portion of the building and some of the interior floors. It also installed bleachers accessible to the disabled.

Albert Lea voters will decide April 9 whether to support funding for a new cooling system to serve both rinks, a new floor for the practice rink, removing frost from under that floor and repairing drainage. The proposal also calls for expanding lobbying and implementing various projects to save energy.

In total, the $9.8 million proposal would improve the City Arena, the Marion Ross Theater, the Aquatic Center and Splash Pad.




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