On the western bank of the Mississippi river, just a hop, skip and jump north of Iowa, lies the city of La Crescent, MN. Known as “The Apple Capital of Minnesota”, they have John S. Harris to thank for that. Harris was born in Ohio, married in Wisconsin but moved across the Mississippi to La Crescent in 1856 to start a flower and vegetable farm. Although most Minnesotans couldn’t imagine that apples could withstand the harsh Minnesota winters, Harris did and and he began experimenting with different kinds of apples to see what would grow. Today, orchards from that era can still be found around the community, celebrated with an annual Applefest.
In addition to apples, La Crescent has close to 5,000 residents and has, as many Minnesota towns do, an arena. The La Crescent Community Ice Arena is a single pad facility. It’s owned by the City but throughout the hockey season, it’s operated by the local minor hockey club, the Lancer Youth Hockey Association.
La Crescent Arena: Grants Two Years in a Row
For two years in a row, the arena has received grant money through a state-funded program. In 2015, the arena got over $30K towards replacing their outdated dehumidifier. This year, they’ve been granted just over $78K to replace their old ice resurfacer and decades-old edger, which both run on propane. In both cases the grant monies totalled half of the projected costs; the remainder will come from city budgets and fundraising that’s been done by the Lancer Youth Hockey Association.
Senator James Metzen and the Mighty Ducks
The grant monies were awarded by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. Originally called the “Mighty Ducks Grant Program”, the name was changed this year to “James Metzen Mighty Ducks Grant Program” in honour of a beloved state senator who served Minnesota for 42 years. Jim Metzen was not only a tireless minor hockey and ice sports booster, he was one of the founding fathers of the Mighty Ducks grant program. At 72, he died of lung cancer this past July, barely three months after retiring..
The Mighty Ducks grants were initiated to develop girls hockey programs and to improve the conditions of arenas in general. Within a 5-year span, between 1995 and 2000, the program was responsible for an incredible 61 additional ice pads to answer the ramping demand for ice time. Today, Minnesota boasts 190 arenas with 260 sheets of ice, the vast majority of them being community or school district owned.
$10 Million in Grant Money Available
This year, a record $10 million in grant money was earmarked for projects that eliminate the use of R-22 refrigerant or improve indoor air quality. At the Board of Directors’ meeting in November, $2,834,000 in grant money was distributed amongst 29 communities/school districts. All project requests for electrical resurfacers was granted.
Mark Erickson, the program director for Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission is a bit disappointed more arenas didn’t apply for grants this year. But he underscores that fundraising is the key to a successful award.
“Fundraise!” he exclaims. “Get partnerships with your local city and school district and your user groups, like the minor hockey associations, and fundraise. It’s not hard to apply for a grant, but the matching dollars are a big sticking point.” The Mighty Ducks grants will fund up to 50% of the costs for successful projects.
Erickson says if they’re not sure what to do, they should give him a call.
Happy to Help
“I’m happy to give them help,” he says. “I can help with the technical aspects and the deal making too — getting everybody on the same page, show them how to navigate the political process for getting the funds from their local government unit and school district.”
Erickson says that although just under $3 million was awarded in 2016, the $7. million remaining is still available and will be awarded for future grants. And, in the meantime, he says the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission will be lobbying the State legislature to get a ceiling of $50,000 on R22 grants raised to correspond with equipment costs.
As for projects involving electric resurfacers and edgers, there is a lot of grant money available going forward.
“I expect we’ll be able to fund plenty more electrical resurfacers over the next couple of years,” he says.
Pete Hogan, the President of the Lancer Youth Hockey Association was interviewed by the Lacrosse Tribune about the grants. He was quoted as saying:
“It’s always a surprise (to be awarded grant money); I don’t know how many other associations are trying to get it.“
His last remark is important. As Mark Erickson says, fundraising is the key to all those associations out there who didn’t apply for grants this year but can still take advantage of the available funding. After all, to get a grant, you need to have the matching money available, and to have that, you will probably need to fundraise.
As for the La Crescent Ice Arena, the staff, user groups and visitors will say goodbye to poor air quality forever when their new equipment arrives in early 2017. On the delivery docs will be a brand-spanking-new Olympia Millennium Electric resurfacer and an Olympia Battery Edger.
Clean air, new toys – now that’s sweet!
For more information, please contact:
James Metzen Mighty Ducks Grant Program
Nice to see an article about La Crescent and the hockey arena.
As a youth growing up in La Crescent in the 50s and 60s, come wintertime, we would go down to the swamp and play hockey. We would scrape off the snow so we could skate, and someone would build a warming fire using an old tire. That was THE place to go and it was cold but fun.
Prior to the arena being built, the youth hockey association built an outdoor rink with side boards on the current site. This was in the early 1990s and was built on school district property. When the arena was opened, I was at the dedication ceremonies, representing the school board. I gave a little speech, telling stories from my childhood, of skating on the swamp, and some of the other parents at the dedication like the Wieser family had some of the same memories too!
Those childhood memories are nice to think about now and then, but it sure is nice to have an indoor facility and live in a community that supports it the way that La Crescent does.
La Crescent Area Historical Society
I had a call from Pete Hogan from the Lancer Youth Hockey Association last night. You certainly have a great community spirit there in La Crescent, and a lot of great history!
I’m so impressed with the people I meet along my ice resurfacing storytelling journey. Thanks for being a part of it, Don!!!