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New Duluth hockey arena takes shape

Nearly three years after explosions and flames gutted Peterson Arena, its replacement is taking shape a half-mile away. Site work for the Duluth Heritage Sports Center began at the former Clyde Iron site in Lincoln Park/West End last month. Weath...

Nearly three years after explosions and flames gutted Peterson Arena, its replacement is taking shape a half-mile away.

Site work for the Duluth Heritage Sports Center began at the former Clyde Iron site in Lincoln Park/West End last month. Weather permitting, workers will erect the last precast concrete wall panels for the Heritage Arena on Monday.

The arena and Heritage Hall are on track to be completed around year's end.

"Things are going great," Kelly Davidson, project manager with Kraus-Anderson, the project's general contractor, said Friday. "All our subs seem to be working as a great team to move this project along as quick as we can."

Almost all the demolition work on the site is done. Grading for the parking lot is scheduled to begin next week. Footings are being installed so floors can be poured.

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"We've been working on this thing for well over two years," said John Erickson, an architect with Damberg Scott Gerzina and Wagner Architects. "To see it come to reality is extremely exciting."

Fire destroyed Peterson Arena at Wheeler Field in West Duluth in December 2004 after a leaking propane tank on a Zamboni caused explosions. The Duluth Amateur Hockey Association immediately began raising money to replace the arena. Original plans called for a $5.3 million, single-rink facility at Wheeler.

The project, however, moved to the Clyde Iron site, with its ample space and easy access off Interstate 35. And it grew from a single-rink facility to the $15.4 million Duluth Heritage Sports Center.

It also became a public-private partnership, with property owner and Duluth businessman Alex Giuliani planning to build or renovate buildings around the sports center to house retail stores, a hotel, an enclosed soccer pavilion, residential and office space, and a brewery.

"Now that construction is under way on the Heritage, we are focusing our efforts on the balance of the Clyde Park development, which is exciting in itself," Erickson said. "There are plenty of options being evaluated to maximize the benefits for both parties. The next couple of months are going to be key in finalizing those decisions."

The construction includes the approximately 1,400-seat Heritage Arena and the attached Heritage Hall.

Heritage Hall will include 12 locker rooms, offices for the foundation and DAHA, concession stands, restrooms, an ice plant sized for the arena and the planned Heritage Pavilion, and space for the Boys and Girls Club.

"That's currently in advanced drawing stage, so we hope to begin construction on that in the next 30 to 60 days," said Dick Loraas, chairman of the board for the nonprofit Duluth Heritage Sports Center Foundation.

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The project's current phase, which includes site preparation, the arena and center, costs $11.5 million. This phase of construction includes a number of items that will support the pavilion, Loraas said.

"We've put more money into Heritage Hall to get to the point [that] when the pavilion building is built, all we do is plug it in," he said.

A multi-sport field house, the pavilion will provide a second hockey rink and training facilities for indoor baseball, softball, tennis, track and other sports. Construction will cost an estimated $3.9 million.

The foundation has raised $11.6 million, including$1 million from the Mitch and Elva Sill family, $1 million from Dave and Lisa Goldberg, $2.9 million from the state of Minnesota,$1.8 million from the city and $1.2 million from the Duluth school district. The foundation is working to raise the remaining money needed for the pavilion. Davidson said work can begin on the pavilion as soon as the foundation secures financing.

"We would prefer to start it while we have everyone there," he said.

Loraas said the foundation is busy raising money for the pavilion.

"We hope to have that started before the end of this year," he said. "Our goal is to have it open before the start of the 2008 season."

The foundation also is laying the groundwork to create an endowment fund that will distribute grants to eligible families to defray the costs of participating in organized youth sports.

Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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