Arena opens to fanfare, free skating [UPDATED]Published 10:46am Monday, November 21, 2011 Updated 10:47am Monday, November 21, 2011
Sunday was a day of celebration, recognition and, most importantly, skating at Fergus Falls’ new community ice arena, which saw its official ribbon-cutting ceremony over the weekend.
City council alderman Pat Connelly opened the proceedings with a brief speech thanking everyone who contributed to the project, from other council members to businesses to fundraisers and more. Connelly had already been in the arena a few times for hockey games and other events, and he’s seen a very positive reaction so far.
“This is something that’s part of the community for years to come,” he said.
He added that the arena is an effort of the city as a whole, expanding beyond direct supporters to include the voters who approved a half-cent sales tax to pay for the city’s $4 million share.
“Congratulations on a job well done,” he said.
The arena – and its role in revitalizing the Roosevelt Education Center – was praised as an asset for the city’s children by Fergus Falls School Superintendent Jerry Ness.
“I’m amazed that this has turned out more beautiful than I had imagined,” he said.
The activities the arena will host are essential, he added, and he praised the city council for deciding to fund the project.
“Many times, leadership is doing what is right, not what is popular,” he said, the ceremony’s only acknowledgment that the city’s funding of the structure faced opposition from a significant group of residents.
Finally, Lisa Ahlgren and Chuck MacFarlane from the arena fundraising committee thanked everyone who donated to the project, saving special recognition for the Tuel family, which donated a large sum, and Gary Spies, one of the most active fundraisers on the project. Spies was given a customized hockey jersey with his name on it.
Spies, for his part, thanked the community members who first conceived of the new arena.
“This is their dream, and today they got it,” he said. “I’m very happy to be a small part of it.”
After that, the arena’s ribbon was cut, and free skating was announced. Children of all ages streamed onto the main rink, built as much for them as anyone else.