Park Board okays sheet of ice at Crookston Sports Center

Jess Bengtson

The Crookston Park Board approved a request by the Blue Line Club this week to put in one sheet of ice earlier at the Crookston Sports Center for youth hockey and it’s set to be ready by Monday, September 14 after the request also passed through the City Council. The BLC offered, and were asked, to provide representatives from their club to assist with temperature and health checks, and to make sure players (and parents) do not loiter in the arena before or after activities.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Riopelle mentioned early in the conversation with the Park Board that when the pandemic hit they closed the rink and said they wouldn’t have ice until October. He added that he was concerned with staffing numbers as they didn’t do their normal summer hiring, plus he would have liked to have bought more time for outside activities with fall programming starting in mid-September as well.

The cost to put in and maintain ice was also a concern as it adds up to around $5,000 a week, said Riopelle after being asked by Park Board member Derek Martin. Martin told the board they should get the ice in for the kids as “they don’t care about the budget”, they just want to play. When asked by Park Board member Brigette Burzette-Deleon what the BLC typically pays, Riopelle said around $2,150.

“What would you like to see from the Blue Line Club to have ice by the 14th or 15th?” asked BLC board member Wes Colborn during their discussion, saying they’re willing to do temp checks, help put in the ice, control the numbers going in and out, keep coaches and supervisors on site, etc.

Riopelle answered saying he’d like to see a health preparedness plan and to have club members do testing and monitor the facility. He added that they should have a maximum time of around 15 minutes for players to get dressed and ready before activities and the same for after before they’d be required to exit the building, plus only players under 10 years of age should be allowed to have one parent assist them with their gear inside the building. Riopelle also mentioned that parents would not be allowed to stay to watch and congregate inside the building during this time. The arena will also have different doors on the east side for entering and exiting as well.

Riopelle added that District 16, which houses Crookston, East Grand Forks, Bemidji, and other areas in the northwest, has stated that “ignorance will not be tolerated” and suggested health guidelines be communicated on a consistent basis.

“We aren’t only concerned about the future, we’re also concerned about our employees,” Riopelle told the group, referring to the probability of a COVID-19 outbreak. “If we run into a problem where we don’t have a lot of personnel, I don’t know what we’re going to do to stay open. It could happen.”

“It’s in the back of everyone’s minds, percolating. It’s not ‘what if’, it’s ‘when,’” added Park Board Chair Mike LaFrance.

The BLC will offer youth hockey skills and drills Sunday through Thursday starting the week of September 14 for three weeks. Masks will be required to enter the building and only two pods of 25 players will be allowed on the ice at once.