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Civic Center leadership announces major renovations

A $1.5-$2 million upgrade is in the works for the Brainerd Area Civic Center.

The revamp will provide required Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility with an elevator, as well as updated restrooms, locker rooms, concession stands and viewing areas. The whole building front will shift into a grand entranceway that ties the two rinks together.

The Brainerd Amateur Hockey Foundation (BAHF) announced the plans Monday.

“This will take (the civic center) to the next level,” said Shawn Sundquist, president of the Brainerd Amateur Hockey Association (BAHA).

Construction will run from May to November this year. Although all of the funds haven’t been raised, BAHF leaders say they’re comfortable with starting construction since they already have a small fund set aside for the project.

As for the rest of the amount, they’ll rely on loans, grants, in-kind contributions and community donations.

Also up for grabs through donations are the naming rights for each of the two ice rinks and the center itself.

The civic center has long been in need of an elevator. Handicapped visitors wanting to get to the second floor now have to be carried.

“It’s embarrassing and not safe,” Sundquist said.

Other upgrades include:

* A heated entrance that will accommodate large groups. The whole front wall will be removed and replaced with windows, spanning the first and second floors to create a more open, welcoming feel. A new roof over the entrance will tie both rinks together.

* A plaza will be in front near the parking lot, providing a safe place for athletes to wait for parents. (Currently, many wait right in the parking lot, where there is heavy traffic.)

* ADA compliant bathrooms on both floors.

* Expanded concession stands that are ADA compliant.

* An extended heated second-floor viewing area for both ice rinks.

There are also a few things on BAHF’s wish list, like weight rooms, shooting lanes, more locker rooms and increased seating capacity.

Those items will happen when enough funds are raised.

“There’s not a rink in the state like this. It’s one of a kind,” said Eric Fischer, BAHF president.

This major renovation will enhance community pride, BAHF leaders say. It will also help the programs grow and expand. There will be bigger programs, larger shows, better practice times and more sports able to use the facility.

The civic center brings in 25,000 users each year. There’s no telling just how much that will balloon with the upgrades, said Mike Blanch, BAHF board member.

It will eliminate liability and enhance the experience of everyone who steps through the new doors.

“It’s more of a community asset. It’s something the community can be proud of,” Blanch said.

Leaders from BAHF started brainstorming possibilities for the civic center late last year after acquiring ownership of the building from the city of Brainerd.

It started with the need for an elevator and expanded into other needs, Blanch said. Leaders tossed around the idea for erecting a new building, making the current one a practice facility or some combination. They eventually landed on the current plan.

“It’s 40 years old,” Blanch said of the building. “It’s in need of an update.”

Sundquist added, “It will take more than a layer of paint.”

At Monday’s unveiling, BAHF leaders made the announcement to representatives from the cities of Brainerd and Baxter, the Brainerd School District, the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and user groups like the Minnesota Hockey Camps and the Vacationland Figure Skating Club. It was an effort to raise excitement and spread the word.

“We’re trying to build something we can all be proud of for the next 50 years,” Sundquist said.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at