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Indoor ice returning to Wadena

Photo by Brian Hansel A new indoor hockey facility is being erected in Wadena by Hammers Construction.1 / 3
A new indoor hockey facility is being erected in Wadena by Hammers Construction.2 / 3
Photo provided Wadena Hockey Association skaters gathered on the ice in Little Falls Monday night for a three-hour skills session. Wadena teams go into district action this weekend. Wadena Association players attending the Little Falls session included, first row: Reid Miller. Second row, from left: Josh Dykhoff, Tauer Carr, Preston Warren, Justin Dykhoff, Max Phillips and Wyatt Hamann. Third row, from left: Bryce Cooper, Jackson Becker, Dylan McManigle, Jake Dykhoff, Mack Jones, Vincent Bergland, Andre...3 / 3

The excitement of playing hockey again in Wadena is building right along with a new ice arena.

On Monday, members of the Wadena Hockey Association who attend WDC School took advantage of the day off, to get on the ice. The same day the first steel beams went up on their new arena, 24 skaters spent three hours in Little Falls sharpening their skills for the upcoming season. Members of the Squirt, PeeWee and Bantams shared the ice.

Players have also been utilizing open hockey times in neighboring towns, doing P90X as well as dry land training to get ready for the season.

Energy is very high in the entire association. The steel in the air over the boards is really getting the kids, and community ready to go.

Business owners are also eager for the return of hockey. With games come spectators who become customers of many Wadena businesses. The hockey association is ready to once again become a part of the community as well as the economy.

While the walls go up, members of the association are feverishly planning, scheduling and ordering materials. As soon as the steel frame is erected, volunteers and contractors will begin work at night.

After the crews from Hammers Construction are gone for the day, the association will start swinging hammers, building locker rooms, moving in bleachers borrowed from the Wadena County Fair Board, painting, wiring and getting things ship for home games. "Not everything will be completely done before the first game, the first priority is getting kids on the ice. But it will look like home. It will look like Wolverine Hockey," Wadena Hockey Association Vice President Matt Lunde said.

The city is still planning on applying for bonding money from the state to build a wellness center on or near the same site as the arena now being constructed. However, new revised plans the city reviewed last week show options that do not include a new arena. The new hockey digs are officially a temporary structure. However, the Hockey association knows it will be home for a minimum of two years, even if any proposed wellness center includes an ice arena.

"A lot of what we are doing can be moved and reused if we get another new home," Lunde said. "They are installing locker rooms, a lobby, concession stand, bleachers, press box and sound system. The goal is to bring Wadena hockey back to normal. But, this building will go one step beyond. This will be better that what we had before." He furthered, "the entire focus is on the kids. This is why we are all willing to put in the work. Not just for our kids, but for kids in years to come."

The construction schedule will also allow for the ice to be made before the arena is even complete. After the steel frame is constructed, they will begin making ice. After the frame is complete, everything Hammers Construction does is done from the outside. The roof and south walls will be first to go up to shade the sheet of ice from the sun.

They are poised to throw the switch on the cooling system soon as it needs several days to get the surface cool enough to make ice. The first layer of water is scheduled to be put down the day after Thanksgiving. As it stands now, they will meet the goal of ice by Dec. 1.

That positive attitude will come in handy when they begin the long, late hours building the interior structure. The lesson is not lost on the kids.

As they left the ice on Monday, they shouted proudly, "Just because we don't have ice doesn't mean were not ready. We're coming for ya District 15!"

The EF4 tornado that hit Wadena June 17, 2010 destroyed the Wadena Community Center building which housed the ice arena. In September of 2010, the Wadena City Council declared a 180-day moritorium on tornado-affected building projects in Wadena. The council later approved a temporary facility but it was not constructed. The Wadena Hockey Association remained intact, practicing and playing outdoors. Some youth players skated with Park Rapids and Alexandria. High school teams practiced and played most of their home games in Long Prairie.

The Squirts are coached by Kevin Stevens, Paul Warren is at the helm for the PeeWee team while Jay Miller leads the Bantam squad. All three coaches are very optimistic for the upcoming season. Kevin Stevens was happy after his team tangled in a scrimmage with Park Rapids last weekend. Stevens said, "give me two weeks on the ice with this group and they will be plenty ready." Warren and Miller noted the dedication to the sport has more than overcome the lack of early season ice.

League games start for the Wolverines this weekend.