Northfield ice arena future undecided with building needing repair

Generations of hockey players in southern Minnesota are at risk of losing their ice rink, as Northfield’s 50-year-old arena is in such bad shape many say its not worth fixing. At the same time, a proposal to build a new arena has struggled to gain support.

The Northfield Hockey Association says it would cost around $5 million to make the most basic safety repairs on the building, and that doesn’t include making the facilities and accessibility upgrades that are desperately needed.

Chris Kennelly with the Northfield Hockey Association says they are proposing a new facility to be built on donated land but have so far received lukewarm support from the city council.

"To keep pushing this down the road we’re going to end up with no ice in town," said Kennelly. "Now is the time to do it."

Kennelly recognizes that partial public funding for the arena will be a hard sell, but he says the risk of not having an ice arena in town will be devastating for income potential and population growth.

"We need something to attract young families," he said. "That’s something the school district has mentioned is they think they’ll lose enrollment if we don’t have ice hockey programs. We certainly think families would move."

The Northfield ice hockey program has had great success in recent years. Both the girls and boys varsity teams punched a ticket to the state tournament this year. In addition, senior Ayla Puppe was named Ms. Hockey Minnesota.

Among the needs of a costly new coolant system, the current arena is not handicap accessible and has various safety issues.

"The locker rooms can barely hold half of a team," said Northfield varsity hockey player Kamden Kaiser. "Its kind of falling apart all around. It's hard for grandparents to get up the stands, it's hard to see, and overall it's not very accessible."

The city council is scheduled to discuss the ice arena at its next meeting March 12. None of the city council members responded to FOX 9’s request for comment for this story.