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Community Center board, Hockey Association mulling options

With the Wadena wellness center being rejected by the 2011 Legislature, plans are left in the lurch while the community center organization and Hockey Association mull their options.

John Paulson of the Community Center board said there are several possibilities as the city waits for the 2012 normal bonding session.

"We'll be looking into all options again," he said. "There's the option of building like we planned last fall over the old sheet of ice, and waiting to build the community center portion until next year of bonding, or building both of them."

Meanwhile, he is working with hockey to possibly get them inside for the upcoming winter season.

"I've talked with Matt [Lunde] and there's a possibility of having some sort of indoor ice situation this year for the team," he said.

How long can the hockey program go without indoor ice?

"They could probably get by one more year," Paulson said. "It's a very difficult situation that they made the best of last year and it's unfortunate that they had to do that. Had we not had the building moratorium put on us last year, we would have had indoor ice last year. That was a city council decision."

Before the final Minnesota budget deal, the tentative plans had been to have outdoor ice for one more winter as the ice arena was being built with the rest of the wellness center - should it be approved in 2011 bonding. As of the middle of July, that was not going happen.

"I truly expected that the Legislature would come through and help us after the disaster that we've had. I was very disappointed in Senator Hoffman's non-support of the bill for us. Representative Murdock worked really hard for us," Paulson said.

Right now, the parties involved with the wellness center project are looking to next year's legislative session.

"At the moment, the community center board is committed to working with the city and wellness center committee to get the best possible facility we can," he said.

The city's initial plans for the wellness center were to build it concurrently with the new school building, which is slated to be open in fall 2012. Perkins + Will, the architectural firm for both the school and the wellness center, estimated the wellness center would be open around then based on being able to start construction in 2011.

With the next possible bonding opportunity pushed back to 2012, the wellness center would have to open later.

However, in June, Matt Lunde of the Hockey Association had told the Pioneer Journal that the hockey program would suffer if they went more than just one more year without an indoor facility.

"I would hope that if it came through for 2012, that the ice arena portion would be rushed so that they would be using it for the 2012-2013 season," Paulson said.

Meanwhile, the community center itself is occupying a temporary building on the east side of Highway 10, which Paulson said will be used until the new facility is built.

"We'll continue to use that until we build a new facility, yes. It doesn't meet the full needs, but members seem to make use of it and like it," he said, adding that while it would be nice to have the racquetball courts and gym again, it was what they had until then.

Two members of the Hockey Association were contacted for the story but declined to comment at that time.