Final stretch: Ice arena, water park both within two months of completion
Before breaking ground in the fall, the idea of the Dickinson Recreation Center expansion and an outdoor pool at the West River Community Center were only drawings and blueprints.
That’s not the case anymore.
Those drawings and blueprints are starting to take shape as the opening of the outdoor water park and finalization of the recreation center expansion are a little less than two months away.
“When you look at it on paper, it’s really hard to visualize colors and finished materials,” Dickinson Parks and Recreation Director James Kramer said. “As you start to see block going up, where windows are and you can actually walk the spaces, then it starts to get exciting.”
The water park and outdoor pool is set to open at the end of the July, while the recreation center expansion plans to the arena be ready for use in early August.
Additions of the water park and the recreation center were part of a $22 million, three-part expansion plan. The first part of the expansion was completed in early May with additions to the WRCC.
“Weather allowing us some warm temperatures, we are getting real excited to get the pool up and running in July, so people can get a good four- to five-week taste of that outdoor pool, so that next year when we get a full season, not only will the users know but we are going to have a test run of five weeks going into next year,” Kramer said. “That will lead right into the ice. We will have ice in August.”
The water park will include three water slides, a kiddie pool and a lazy river. The parking lot west of the outdoor pool is completed.
The recreation center project includes a second sheet of ice — which can be used throughout the summer — permanent seating for 300 people, four more locker rooms, conference rooms, ice skate rentals, an entrance with a similar look to the WRCC with a lobby and a centralized desk. The new entrance will also lead into the former entrance of the original recreation center. Not only will the expansion at the facility be used for hockey, it will also feature car shows, trade shows and different events throughout the fall, spring and summer months.
Dallas Kuntz, the Dickinson boys hockey team’s head coach, said after the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup on Saturday that he has been itching for hockey season to start.
Kuntz, entering his second year as head coach, took a tour of the arena expansion a week ago.
“To see it go up and the excitement that it brings — there are going to be four more locker rooms, another sheet of ice and an area for the boys to work out for dry land,” Kuntz said. “Now that the building is up and they are working on the inside, it actually hits you on how much this means to everybody and how it has been needed for a long time.”
In addition to another sheet of ice, there will also be a new compressor that can handle both sheets of ice with more efficiency than the older compressor did for just one sheet.
“In the original design of the project, it was designed to be built to handle both sheets of ice,” Kramer said. “We weren’t going to convert the two sheets until our current system died. What happened was is at the end of this ice season, it started to die. Rather than sticking $10,000 to $12,000 in it to fix it, we put the $10,000 into converting the two and now we have one system. We planned for it, but it happened way sooner than what we were expecting.”
Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction is responsible for leading expansion projects and manages 17 contractors. They were the same company in charge of building the WRCC and the Biesiot Activities Center.
“Anytime you have 17 contractors, you are going to have some hurdles and coordination issues, but for the most part everybody has teamed up and worked well toward the common goal,” Kramer said.
Kramer said he still notices subtle changes each day he goes to work and knows the anticipation for the new facilities is building.
“There are things that, as they are building it, pops up and you go, ‘Whoa, I don’t remember that on the paper,’” he said. “For the most part, you see something new every day that was done. At the pool, it has been really neat to see the concrete deck move around the pool and get finished.”
Kuntz said the excitement isn’t just brewing for the high school hockey teams, but for younger players as well.
Prior to the expansion, the Dickinson hockey program had more than 200 kids sharing one sheet of ice. The recreation center had hockey teams practicing from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. throughout the winter. Kuntz said the second sheet of ice will help practice schedules and in Dickinson’s ability to host tournaments.
“I’m excited for the little kids to get them more ice time,” Kuntz said. “With as big as our club has gotten over the years, it’s going to be nice to accommodate those kids and get them on the ice more.”
The varsity boys and girls teams are the only two allowed to practice at 5 a.m., but the early morning practice creates a conflict when the teams play night games.
“Even if it is a home game, kids get done with the game and they have a lot adrenaline and they don’t fall asleep right away,” Dickinson girls head hockey coach Al Takle said. “When that alarm clock goes off early in the morning, it taxes the kids and they really have to get good at their time-management skills.”
Kramer has received positive feedback about the expansions. That feedback has not only come from lifelong Dickinson residents, but people moving into the community from around the country.
“The community is growing and we are just trying to stay enough ahead of it so that we can accommodate with products, services and programs,” Kramer said. “What we are hearing from people who are moving to town is they are impressed that this size of community having these types of recreational facilities. We are fortunate for a community of our size to have such first-class facilities.”
Kuntz said the expansions at the ice arena can put Dickinson on the same level with the other hockey programs throughout North Dakota.
“Having this second rink takes us to the next level and puts us on par with Bismarck, Jamestown and Minot, as far as accommodating tournaments,” he said. “The kids’ ice time is pretty much going to double because of it.”