by Lori Welle
An outdoor hockey rink and community center will soon become realities now that the Aitkin City Council unanimously approved moving forward with the “Make Your Mark, Support Our Park” project and the majority of funds have been raised.
Before groundbreaking or building can occur, however, the fundraising committee still needs to raise about $99,000 to reach its goal. As of late November, $356,815 of the $456,000 required has been raised for Phase one of a multi-year, phased-in approach to making improvements to the city’s park.
Phase one includes site infrastructure work to build a new outdoor hockey rink, which will be used as four pickleball courts in the off season. This phase also includes a warming house that will double as a community room, which residents can rent for birthday parties, family reunions and other events. The building will include a sink, cabinets, refrigerator and bathroom. This phase also includes a new parking lot.
The fundraising committee has received grants from multiple organizational foundations. It has also received donations of money, products and services from area businesses and residents. A few pending grants may help the committee surpass its goal. If that occurs, team boxes will be added to the rink so the Northern Lakes Lightning Youth Hockey Association can host games, not just practices, in Aitkin.
“I’m so incredibly proud of the people who have worked extremely hard to help this project succeed,” said Krista Olson, who leads the fundraising campaign. “Members of the hockey association and the Aitkin Area Pickleball Association, as well as others who just want to see our community thrive, have helped our fundraising committee. And although we still have more work ahead of us, it’s really exciting to know we are moving forward with this project in the spring of 2020. This will be a wonderful upgrade to our community!”
Groundbreaking will occur once the ground thaws. Before that, however, the Aitkin Fire Department will use the current warming house as a practice burn site and the rest of the current rink will be demolished. (Watch the Aitkin Age for more details.)