History of Anoka Ice Arena
Prior to 1981 most local area ice activities were outside or at distant arenas, Columbia being the closest. A number of Ice Hockey enthusiasts tried on 3 separate occasions to get a voter referendum passed to build a municipal Ice Arena, all three efforts failed.
In 1980 another group formed to try and build an arena privately. This group was made up of an all-volunteer group of ice hockey parents and supporters. A group of 70+ parents were charged with raising the necessary funds through donations and pledges from ice hockey parents, fans and local businesses. After a successful campaign and a donation from Anoka County, who was getting significant pressure to build another county rink, the project was given an o.k. Most of the money was raised from local area residents who were clearly willing to commit financially due to a total lack of available indoor ice. Another group was charged with building the arena. Volunteers worked every weekday night until 10:00 pm or later and on Saturday from 6:00 am till 10-11 pm. The entire arena except for the steel structure was built with outstanding dedicated volunteers (painters, plumbers, electricians, block layers, and general labor for the unskilled). The project received very favorable press from both Minneapolis and St. Paul papers and local T.V. This type of volunteer project was unique in Minnesota. Most arena’s are municipal sponsored (thus taxpayer supported) but the Anoka arena is one of a very few that is Ice Arena Association member owned and operated. Ground was broken in July 1981 with a grand opening in November 1981(A truly exceptional performance). It became only the 3rd arena in Anoka County, Columbia and Coon Rapids being the others.
Financing was always a day to day problem because the funds only came from donations thus were limited. Needless to say every dollar had to be spent wisely. Many very hard decisions had to be made such as natural ice vs. artificial ice (big cost difference). On a number of occasions the entire group was called together to decide on a continuation or stop. Material was scrounged from many sources. Initial rubber came from a Taconite plant in Northern MN, bleachers from a school in Iowa. Outside fire escape was on a truck to a dump. The local sheriff stopped the truck and asked where the steps were going, after being advised the dump, he commented follow me (thus the rink’s fire escape). There are many stories like these. To those who were there in the early 80’s this was a palace, a gem and theirs to use. Would an upscale arena be preferable, yes but without taxpayer source of funding, there were no options or flexibility. Every dollar got maximum use.
It is important that the history of the initial ice arena not be forgotten. It is a great story and the arena has served our local youth for now over 20 years. Without the value and equity of the initial arena, there would not be a second rink. That original group should always be thanked for their efforts and wise use of the very limited funds they had to work with.
There is significant value to the Anoka Area Hockey Association of the Anoka Area Ice Arena. Since it is member owned and not municipal owned, arena members through a board determine ice arena priorities not a municipality. The Hockey Association gets priority on ice. Anoka gets all the hours it requests, which differs from other hockey associations who must buy ice hours at other arenas to serve their needs.
Secondly, Anoka Hockey Association ice hour prices are below average market prices. Others who buy ice hours from Anoka Ice Arena pay a higher market price. Expenses are not incurred that our income can’t support otherwise ice costs increase.
Thank you for your time in reading this history. It is important to know and understand the history and story of the Anoka Area Ice Arena.