WEST FARGO - The new home for all West Fargo high school hockey programs is open for play.
West Fargo Sports Arena, the $20 million two-sheet ice arena built by West Fargo School District taxpayers, opened to youth hockey last weekend.
The 70,000-square-foot facility also boasts a community room and 11 locker rooms, three of which are dedicated to West Fargo high school teams: Packers boys hockey; Mustangs boys hockey and West Fargo United, the combined girls hockey team of both high schools.
"It's very cool that we have the ability to give each school a locker room," said Brady Vander Velde, the facility manager.
The main rink has seating for about 1,000 spectators, while the auxiliary rink seats about 450, Vander Velde said.
West Fargo Public Schools broke ground on the arena in August 2016 after voters overwhelming approved a multi-building, $98.1 million bond in November 2015.
West Fargo schools were in need of more ice, having only two sheets at Veterans Arena. Although Veterans Arena is next to West Fargo High School, it is owned and operated by the West Fargo Park District.
The school board decided in June 2016 to scale the project with enough room to be home to both the West Fargo High School Packers and Sheyenne High School Mustangs teams. District spokeswoman Heather Konshack said both schools will call the West Fargo Sports Arena home. Students will be bused from their respective schools to the arena for practices and games when the winter sports season begins around Thanksgiving.
In the meantime, Vander Velde said youth hockey teams have already started to practice at the new arena and scheduling is filling in through March.
Overlooking the arena is a community room with views of both rinks. To care for the ice, the arena has two electric Zambonis, which were purchased with the help of First International Bank & Trust. Greg Mastrud, West Fargo bank president, presented a check for $136,618 to the West Fargo School Board, which essentially covers the cost of one of the ice resurfacing machines.
"They are state of the art," Vander Velde said of the new Zambonis.
Not just hockey
The school district in July signed a $227,000 two-year contract with West Fargo Events to provide management of the West Fargo Sports Arena for the next two years.
While hockey programs have filled up the schedule, it is not the only event for which the West Fargo Sports Arena can be used. West Fargo Events is working with the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Convention and Visitors Bureau to attract special events to the facility, from hockey tournaments to curling or broomball. While the ice can be used for summer ice events, Vander Velde said the arena is open to hosting non-ice events, such as car shows.
"We can use this building for just about any event," he said.
The arena will pair perfectly with a planned pavilion to be built just across the street.
When the school district bought 13 acres of land needed for its ice arena in February 2016, leaders planned to work with the city and developers to create a master plan for the area that would include room for businesses and restaurants.
The school district sold 5.81 acres of the land to developers that plan to build Sheyenne 32, a multi-building plaza with retail, restaurants, residential space and an open-air public pavilion on the northwest corner of Sheyenne Street and 32nd Avenue.
The space, similar to an open-air pavilion, could host public events such as concerts, with a standing-room capacity of up to 2,000 people. In the winter, the pavilion could be turned into an outdoor rink or sledding hill.
Vander Velde said West Fargo Events and developers will partner to plan events and attractions for both Sheyenne Street facilities.
To check out the West Fargo Sports Arena, the public can stop by an open house slated for 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20.