WINDOM — By the end of the month, users of the Windom Arena may begin enjoying an 18-month-and-counting makeover to the more than 40-year-old facility.
The 4,500-square-foot addition — which will provide additional locker rooms, equipment storage and a training room — is closed in, and plumbing and electrical rough-in is underway.
“We’re hoping to open the addition for usage yet this ice-making season,” said Brent Staples, Windom Area Youth Hockey Association building committee member.
The project is the result of the inception of the building committee, a subcommittee of the Windom Area Youth Hockey Association tasked with researching what the facility needed to remain a viable and safe venue for all its users in the next 20 to 30 years.
“We were approaching a timeframe where the city arena’s compressors were going to be out of date and we were faced with some locker room issues,” Staples said. “A year ago, we made the election to privately fundraise and build a locker room addition to our city arena.”
The approximately $500,000 addition will provide five new locker rooms, which will include designated boys and girls varsity locker rooms with equipment storage, three additional team rooms for visiting teams, youth teams and other needs and a separate dressing room for coaches. An 800-square-foot dryland training room is also being constructed for off-ice shooting and stick-handling drills.
“Frankly, we needed to have a safe environment to come to the arena and have space to get dressed in,” Staples said of one of the driving forces behind the project.
The addition was also designed for adequate equipment storage, something that is especially needed by high school players. Without many other options, many kids keep their gear in their car throughout the day, Staples said. With the new equipment storage space, they no longer have to worry about putting on cold and frozen gear, he added.
In addition to Windom Area High School’s girls and boys varsity teams, the arena also supports skaters from various levels of youth teams and a men’s league. That amounts to about 140 hockey players from Windom and surrounding communities of Jackson, Lakefield, Heron Lake, Okabena, Mountain Lake, Butterfield, St. James and Okoboji, Iowa.
The locker room space will not only benefit the hockey association.
The locker rooms will also be used for the arena’s many other uses year-round, which includes about 100 figure skaters, the Cottonwood County Fair and horse shows throughout the spring and summer seasons.
“We hope to be able to use those facilities — the showers and the like — for people who are camping down at the fairgrounds for the county fair and horse shows,” said building committee member Ryan McNamara.
Staples said while the arena continues to be a great facility for its many uses, there are some key things that have changed and developed beyond what it was designed for when it was built in 1975.
Hockey, which was then a club-only sport, is now a high school competitive sport with the addition of a girls team. Due to the demands of on-ice time, a half-sheet practice rink was also built into the existing structure.
“We’re very appreciative of the home we have, and we didn't want to ask as an association for a multimillion new facility,” Staples said of the hockey association’s decision to take on the project. “We wanted to be thankful for what we had and put a little sweat equity into it and make it into a 20- to 30-year asset our community can go forward with again.”
While the addition is a cheaper price tag than a complete overhaul of the arena, the project still requires a solid financial commitment. Helping furnish that commitment is where the community has really shown support and desire to have the project come to fruition.
“We’re trying to fundraise and build a community-based project,” Staples said. “People from all walks of life have stepped up and contributed.”
As of this week, a variety of donors — from area businesses, private individuals and individuals with a vested interest — have produced slightly more than $400,000 toward the $500,000 project. More than $100,000 in contributions, pledges and multi-year donations came in over the last month since the building committee went public with the fundraising campaign.
“Which has been just absolutely phenomenal,” Staples said. “We’re very appreciative of every dollar.”
Donors who contribute in any of the four designated donation levels will be recognized in committee’s newspaper campaign and on the Jamie Torkelson Memorial Donor Wall — which will be constructed at the entrance of the new addition in honor of Torkelson, who passed away in a 2005 motorcycle accident. The family organizes a motorcycle rally every year and donates the funds raised to the hockey association, said building committee member Justin Espenson.
“At the beginning of the project we thought it fitting that all donors get listed on a donor wall,” he added.
Raising more than $100,000 in a month’s time is exciting for the building committee, but it also knows the work is not over.
“We’ve got to keep on the gas and keep rolling yet,” Espenson said.
To make a donation, individuals can mail a check to Windom Area Youth Hockey Association, P.O. Box 41, Windom 56101 or online at www.windomhockey.com. Questions may be directed to Espenson at (507) 822-3206.
Building committee members include Staples, McNamara, Justin Espenson, Jason Espenson, Shannon LaCanne, Joel LaCanne and John Hedquist.
When the project is complete, the association and its donors will turn over the addition to the city and it will be a city asset, Staples said.
In addition to the hockey association’s project, the city of Windom has also taken steps of its own to potentially upgrade the facility. According to Windom City Administrator Steve Nasby, the city council approved plans and specifications to replace the ice-making systems at the arena. The upgrade, he added, is necessary due to a change in federal law regulating use of R-22 coolant and the more than 40-year age of the system.
If the council approves bids in the coming months, the estimated $1.4 million project would include new compressors, concrete flooring and other project specific upgrades as needed, Nasby said.
Pending bid approval, the city’s project is anticipated to begin in April and completed in early August.