Runestone Community Center gets closer to building $20M third rink
For nearly 15 years, a committee of dedicated community members has advocated for a third rink at the Runestone Community Center to meet demands for more ice time and "dry floor" events.
ALEXANDRIA — For nearly 15 years, a committee of community members known as the Capital Campaign Committee has advocated for a third rink to be added at the Runestone Community Center to provide a positive economic impact by meeting the demand for wanted ice time and dry floor events.
Their original goal was to tackle the demand for much-needed ice time due to rising hockey, curling and figure skating programs. But, as the city of Alexandria has grown, so has the need for other, larger, "dry-floor" events such as trade shows, concerts and graduations to name a few.
When the group started advocating, they received some push-back as some did not see the need for a third facility. But when the world seemed to have shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eyes were opened to just how much business the RCC brought to Alexandria and now the group is much closer to its goal with the help of city and state governments, according to Kent Kopp, campaign chair for the committee.
The City of Alexandria and the State of Minnesota contributed a combined $11.2 million — $5.6 million from the city and an equal amount from the state through a 2020 bonding bill to cover the estimated $20 million for the entire project. Currently, the group is fundraising to cover the remaining $8.8 million.
According to Kopp, if everything goes right, the project could break ground as early as spring 2023 and open its doors by spring 2024.
Time is of the essence for the project as rising interest rates and the rising costs of labor and materials could increase the cost if the project is pushed back. In a 2020 Echo Press article, when the state approved its $5.6 million, the total cost of the project was estimated at $10 million, half of what it is today.
There are donation forms at the RCC that people interested in contributing to the project can fill out.
People can donate two ways.
One, through the City of Alexandria via check or online at www.alexandriamn.city. Second, through the Alexandria Area Community Foundation via check or online at www.communitygiving.org/donate. Make sure to select "Alexandria RCC Expansion Project Fund" from the drop-down menu if donating through this entity.
Those who wish their donations to remain anonymous are encouraged to donate through the community foundation as donations to the city are considered public data.
The new facility will connect to the center's two other buildings on its southern sides. It will feature a skating rink — which can be converted to accommodate dry floor events — locker rooms, a lobby, viewing areas, offices, an elevator for accessibility, community and physical rooms and a walking track that circles the upper level of the rink.
Right now, the designs for the facility are still in their preliminary stages. As soon as enough money is raised, the city will get final architectural drawings made.
Kopp said the need for the third rink originated almost 20 years ago when local hockey programs started expanding, specifically youth and women's hockey.
"We were one of the few communities that embrace that, and really pushed it," said Kopp. "There's a lot of communities that kind of push the girls off to the side, but we always felt that girls should have just as much right to ice and right to athletics as the boys."
Kopp said with the expansion of hockey, ice availability is shrinking. When his daughter was in hockey, a majority of her games were away because there was not enough ice to accommodate home games.
"This last year, we rented ice in Sauk Centre for some of our tournaments, which isn't really good for the town of Alexandria," Kopp said.
Kopp says according to a study conducted by James Feist, former executive director of Explore Alexandria Tourism, the third facility with all of its amenities will attract visitors and bring Alexandria an economic boost of $2 million annually.
Kopp said the tagline for the committee is "continuing our tradition of excellence."
"We have a history in this town of doing public and private investments to better the town," said Kopp. "So, we decided, to call it 'continuing our tradition of excellence' because this city has built some pretty cool facilities and spent some good money in order to keep this community vibrant and exciting. I've been here 20 years. We're always hopping and we always continue to get busier and busier and busier."
"My goal has always been to bring people to town," said Vincent Hennen, manager of the RCC. "If that means hockey, if that means dry floor, bring them down. Get heads on beds. It's not having the fanciest facility, it's having a facility that you can be proud of and bring people to town."
Along with Kopp, the Capital Campaign Committee includes Jeanne Batesole, Andrew Cavers, David Kjos and Nicole Klimek as honorary chairs. Other members include Ron Branch, Doug Houska, Kris Juettner, Mark Juettner, Kristin Klemenhagen, Brian Klimek, Kevin Kopischke, Josh Meyers, Bill Schultz, Sandy Sheets and Sam Steidl. Members from the City of Alexandria are RCC Manager Hennen, City Administrator Marty Schultz and Sara Stadtherr, communications coordinator.