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Construction to begin at Bemidji Community Arena

Although the hockey season is over, the action at Bemidji Community Arena will pick up this summer when construction begins to make the facility game ready.

The Bemidji Youth Hockey Board recently authorized a construction budget of about $784,500 for the project at the arena, which is on the Bemidji High School campus.

The project includes the construction of a 6,000-7,000-square-foot lobby addition with public restrooms and concession stands and the completion of the arena's locker room area. The lobby will have a Northwoods feel with a log and lumberjack motif.

Hugh Welle, vice president of the Bemidji Community Arena Board, said the hope is that construction will begin June 2.

BYH started a capital campaign last spring to raise $1.2 million to make the arena game ready and pay down the debt from the construction of the arena. BYH has $206,000 left to raise toward its goal, which it hopes to do by the end of the year, Welle said.

BYH, which owns the arena, has used the arena during the past four seasons for practice only because it is not game ready. With the new lobby and completed locker room area, the facility will be ready for games.

Dan Dow, president of the BCA Board, said he expects the project to be completed by October so BYH can start playing games in the arena when the new hockey season begins.

"We're going to finally have a spot for youth hockey," he said.

BYH teams have primarily played games at Nymore Arena, while also competing at the city's Neilson-Reise Ice Arena and Bemidji State University's John Glas Fieldhouse.

At Bemidji Community Arena, BYH will hang up banners and display photos of former BYH players who continued on to play hockey in college and beyond, Dow said.

All BYH home tournaments will be played at the arena.

"We run anywhere from seven to nine tournaments each year," Dow said.

He said each tournament brings in seven to 11 teams, boosting the local economy as teams and fans stay at hotels, eat at restaurants and shop.

"Most people come in Friday night through Sunday," Dow said.

Goals for the future

Dow said the long-range goals for the arena include adding a second sheet of ice and having the arena become the home of the BHS Lumberjacks hockey teams.

Like BYH, the Lumberjacks primarily play home games at Nymore Arena.

Welle said there is no formal plan to bring the BHS teams into the arena at this point.

Community invests

Of the $3 million invested in the arena to date, $400,000 came from public sources and $2.6 million was donated by private individuals, businesses and foundations, Welle said.

"We take great pride in that," he added. "We are very appreciative. The Bemidji community, as usual, has been extremely supportive."

More details about BYH and donation forms for the capital campaign are available at For questions, call Welle at 333-4359 or Dow at 444-3625.