Another victim of flood: Irving hockey rinks in West DuluthThe Irving Youth Hockey Association probably soon will join the ranks of Duluth flood victims left homeless.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
The Irving Youth Hockey Association probably soon will join the ranks of Duluth flood victims left homeless.
The Irving Community Center and a garage that housed the neighborhood’s Zamboni plus other ice-tending equipment will probably be torn down, said Kathy Bergen, director of the Duluth Parks and Recreation Division. She said a recent analysis of the structures by City Architect Tari Rayala revealed the cost of needed repairs could not be justified, and the most reasonable course of action would be to take down the buildings. The community center is next to the NewPage paper mill.
“Nothing has been condemned for demolition yet, but there’s probably a 99 percent chance they will be soon,” Bergen said.
No one denies the community center, which was also home to a warming house and a concession operation, is in rough shape, said Brenda Hanson, vice president of the Irving Youth Hockey Association. She said floodwaters reached nearly to the second floor of the building.
“You can smell the mold growing in there, and the longer it sits, the worse it gets,” Hanson said.
The hockey association lost all its concession equipment, stored inside the community center, to the flood. Chad Postal, president of the local hockey association, estimates the value of the lost equipment at about $6,000 and said it was not insured.
Without a community center, Hanson said it will be impossible to maintain rinks at Irving.
But Postal said neighboring hockey associations in both Morgan Park and Piedmont Heights have made offers to host the Irving team this winter.
“It again goes to show that difficult times bring out the best in Duluthians, with neighbors helping neighbors,” Bergen said.
While Irving hockey players will need to relocate this winter, Bergen said the city recently hauled in a trailer to accommodate a neighborhood football program.
Meanwhile, Bergen said the city continues to deliberate on the future of the park. Some complicating factors include the fact that the current community center occupies a flood plain adjacent to Keene Creek, a designated trout stream.
“We’re still trying to figure out what will work there in terms of a building and where that building should go,” Bergen said. The city will seek input from residents as it figures out the best path forward, she added.
Hanson said Duluth will lose two more community rinks with the closure of Irving, on top of the rinks just closed at Congdon. She expressed her hope that it’s just a temporary setback.
“This goes beyond hockey. We’ll lose our pleasure skating rinks, as well. And the hockey rinks were used by broomball teams, too,” Hanson said.
Postal grew up playing hockey at Irving in the late 1970s and early 1980s and described a proud tradition of the sport in his neighborhood.
Hanson said Irving has boasted the best outdoor rinks in the city, because of a core of committed volunteers and supporters.
“I understand the city is trying to do the best it can and they have priorities with other projects, too,” Postal said. “But it’s frustrating for your community not to have any rinks when you’ve seen how many people come out here to use them.”
Postal said he’s been peppered by questions from users of the rinks, including his own children, Kaden, an 8-year-old Mite II, and Kennedy, an 11-year-old aspiring figure skater.
“They want to know what’s going to happen, and we don’t have any concrete answers yet,” he said.
Hanson said her 7-year-old son, Ty, is relieved that Irving will be able to put a team on the ice this winter, but described it as a bittersweet prospect to not have their own home ice.
“The kids will still be able to skate as Irving, but they’ll be homeless,” Hanson said.