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Most of Coliseum netting to remain

Most of the protective netting inside the John E. Carlson Coliseum will remain in place, despite pleas from the Fargo-Moorhead Jets to have it removed.

Coliseum netting

Most of the protective netting inside the John E. Carlson Coliseum will remain in place, despite pleas from the Fargo-Moorhead Jets to have it removed.

In a special session Friday, the Fargo Park Board voted 3-1 to remove about one-quarter of the dense netting, on the east side of the ice.

Park Board members Joel Vettel, Linda Inniger and Brad Wimmer voted yes; president Tom Barnhart voted no. Commissioner Barb Johnson did not attend the meeting.

The compromise didn't satisfy Jeff and Julie Volk, who commended the Park District for installing the netting after their 9-year-old daughter was seriously injured during a Jets game in early November.

The couple's daughter was rushed to the hospital after a puck struck her face and uprooted a tooth, an emotional Julie Volk said.


"It came so fast and so hard that not one of us had time to react," she said, adding that her daughter sat in the arena's lobby - face covered in blood - during an intermission before being taken to the emergency room.

"We'll be paying dental bills for the next 10 years."

Three girls - including the Volks' daughter - were injured by pucks during Jets games in the past nine months.

The $6,000 white netting stretches from Plexiglas to near the ceiling. It was installed last week at the request of Park District Executive Director Roger Gress.

Despite criticism from the Jets and spectators, Gress stands by his decision to put safety over viewing pleasure.

"I can live with my decision," Gress said. "You can say what you want, I just know out at our new facility (Southwest Youth Ice Arena) that we haven't received one complaint.

"It's for the safety of those little kids up in the audience."

Barnhart agreed.


"It's $6,000 well-spent that could prevent a fatal accident," he said.

The Jets approached the Park District on Thursday with complaints that the netting could deter fans from attending games, Inniger said. The special meeting was called because the Jets hosted a game Friday night at the Coliseum.

A motion to roll up the netting during Jets games until season's end was shot down when Park District crews found it couldn't be done. Another proposal to keep the netting up in corners of the rink was also rejected.

Bryon Brenneman, who attended a high school game Thursday night at the Coliseum, said keeping the netting up in corners makes sense.

"Hopefully they're looking to fix it," he said. "I think the Park District does a good job, they just need to figure out how to let people watch games."

Tom Halstenson, the father of a Jets player, said he's never seen a rink completely enclosed by protective netting.

Rick Graalum, also the father of a Jets player, said he received 100 signatures from people at the high school game Thursday night who wanted the netting removed.

Graalum said the net's thickness is the same as netting used in goals. Although safety is a pressing concern, Graalum said, alternatives like using better netting, opening the middle of the rink or creating a designated safe area for families should be considered.


Those and other Jets proposals Friday disappointed Jeff Volk.

"Money versus safety is what I'm hearing from the Jets," he said. "The netting is the cheapest alternative right now. Let's make the whole facility safe for everyone. I'm disappointed by the way the Jets have handled this situation. I want that on the record."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Joe Whetham at (701) 241-5557

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