MOORHEAD — After a few ups and downs, the Moorhead Youth Hockey Association is well into the second phase of upgrading the Cullen Hockey Center with a third sheet of ice set to be ready by next fall providing more time for about 600 youth to practice and play.

Officials this week revamped a financing plan for the $9 million project that had to be put in place and involved the city of Moorhead, which owns the building but leases it to the association.

In the agreement reached this week, the Moorhead City Council approved a plan where they will help finance cost overruns of about $607,000 for the $3.5 million first phase of the project. That first phase involved renovation of the two existing rinks and went over the planned costs because of higher bids than expected, change orders and soil contamination cleanup required after three underground gas tanks were found from an old gas station at the project site.

The new financing plan, which also involves First International Bank & Trust of Moorhead, calls for the hockey association to repay the cost overruns through a special assessment over 15 years.

As for the project itself, the city funded the first phase work through the hockey center's cash reserves and long-term bond financing. That work included a new roof, repaving the parking lot, an extensive refrigeration system that produces ice for the rinks and installing a dehumidifying system for one of the two rinks that didn't have it.

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Moorhead Public Works Director Steve Moore said the financing plan will also help the hockey association continue with construction on the $5.5 million second phase, which is being financed by the bank and to be repaid by a fundraising campaign.

"We're now going to get the project done," said City Manager Chris Volkers. "And that's a good thing for the community."

With the new financing plan in place, work can continue on the steel-framed structure housing the third rink, which is about halfway done, according to hockey association Executive Director Rob Gramer.

The association still needs to raise more private funds to finish the project, however. Of the total fundraising goal of about $6.5 million for the project, $3.5 million has already been pledged, said Gramer, leaving about $3 million more needed.

He said alumni of the youth program, Moorhead High School alumni, current youth hockey member families and corporate partners are the main contributors of the fundraising campaign. Other donations from private individuals or businesses are welcome, he said.

The Cullen Hockey Center has been bursting at the seams in recent years, said Gramer, as the youth program reached 600 players for the first time this past year.

With just the two sheets of ice, he said only about 45 hours have been left in a week to provide practice time for 59 teams after games are played. Practice times have ranged from 5:45 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. keeping the building occupied almost continuously.

Gramer praised city officials who worked on the new financing plan to keep the project going.