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Ice arena to get new locker rooms, viewing area

As part of a project planned for this summer at the Cottage Grove Ice Arena, the stairway in the South Rink would be replaced, a new set of public locker rooms would be constructed in front of the existing ones, and the roof of the new rooms would become a mezzanine. (Bulletin photo by Patricia Drey Busse)

A planned project at the Cottage Grove Ice Arena aims to replace some narrow, rusted stairs, create another varsity locker room and provide more plentiful and handicap accessible viewing of the south rink.

"We solve a lot of problems with this project," said Ice Arena Manager Zac Dockter.

The Cottage Grove City Council approved last Wednesday, design costs for the project, which would turn the public locker rooms between the north rink and the south rink into a private varsity locker room, and then build a new set of public locker rooms in front of it so that the ceiling would hold a mezzanine for studio rink spectators.

School District 833 would pay up to $150,000, the majority of the project cost, to construct an East Ridge boys varsity locker room with leftover money from the 2006 referendum that funded East Ridge's construction, according to Dockter's report to the council. The additional $25,000 would come from the ice arena fund balance.

Dockter said they're aiming to start construction in July and be finished by October.

A major decision yet to be made is whether the Park boys hockey team will move into the new locker room, which would be closer to its home rink, and let the East Ridge boys hockey team move into its current locker room, which is closer to East Ridge's home rink. The Park team put more than $35,000 worth of improvements into its locker room less than two years ago, when the ice arena addition was constructed. City staff is suggesting the switch, but Dockter said it's up to the schools' booster clubs to negotiate how East Ridge would compensate Park for the improvements they made.

Park boys hockey coach Jay Moser said a move makes sense long-term, but with the money and more than 500 hours of volunteer labor that went into their current locker room in recent memory, he's apprehensive about it.

"For East Ridge to get into that locker room for anything less than $50,000 is a great deal for them as far as I'm concerned because they're getting all that labor free," he said. "If we do move, we have to be getting all the amenities that we currently have and not giving anything up."

The Park coaching staff and parents transported, installed and stained all the lockers, finished the coach's room, laid cables and installed fans in the room themselves, he said. He said he wouldn't ask volunteers to do so much work again so soon, so East Ridge boosters would have to be willing to pay labor and materials costs to move into the room.

Switching rinks, rather than switching locker rooms is "off the table," Moser said.

"There's too much history to just go and say, 'Hey we'll switch rinks,'" he said. "I grew up in this town. I played here. I could never relinquish that rink to East Ridge."

East Ridge High School boys hockey coach Doug Long said it's too early in the planning process to know which locker room East Ridge would favor.

He said he's unsure how much money the team's booster club will be able to dedicate toward furnishing the room.

"There has been a plan to put up a new locker facility. As far as how that gets allocated out, nothing has been decided," he said.

Dockter said the Park team wasn't immediately put into the closer locker room during the reconstruction a year-and-a-half ago, because at that time it was cheaper to construct new locker rooms than to reconstruct the old one, and the city had no guarantees that East Ridge High School would use Cottage Grove Ice Arena.

Some say the East Ridge hockey teams could play at Bielenberg Sports Center, which is next to the school, when another sheet of ice is installed there.

While building another sheet of ice at the Woodbury center is in the city's long-term plans, there is no timeline for when it might be constructed, said Parks and Recreation Director Bob Klatt.

Woodbury High School's teams, which currently play at Bielenberg Sports Center, use the same locker rooms as youth sports teams, but the booster clubs paid for them to have their own lockers within those locker rooms, Klatt said.

Dockter said the booster clubs will have to work out who gets which locker room, but the city plans to move forward with the construction project regardless.

The arena's south studio rink is becoming more and more popular, but it doesn't have a good viewing area, and spectators often line up on its rusting staircase, Dockter said. Providing a mezzanine will solve that problem, and give those in wheelchairs an opportunity to watch the action -- something that is difficult, if not impossible, with the current configuration because the opaque rink wall is taller than a typical wheelchair.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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