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Duluth Heights Hockey Association Works to Save Community Center

Emily Ness
Updated: November 16, 2019 10:58 PM

For a number Northlanders, the Duluth Height’s Community Center is a special place with many memories—including learning how to ice skate. But, the future of the community center is unknown. Renovations are required to fix a problematic ceilling and funds to do so are tight. On Saturday, the Duluth Heights Hockey Association hosted a community lunch to celebrate being the first ice rink open for the season and to raise awareness for their cause.

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“We had a professional engineer come in and say this area is safe down here. It’s the area upstairs that can get a little sketchy,” Zak Radzak, Rink Director said.

Currently, only the lower portion of the building is open as the center awaits a decison on whether or not the ceiling upstairs will be repaired. Despite this, it remains busy.

“This community center is really the heart of the community and it’s not just hockey. Its soccer and baseball, but also it’s been a place where people have come to meet other families and have weddings or shopping events,” Kim Oppelt, President of the Duluth Heights Hockey Association said.

According to the center, 40 families joined their association this season alone. That is on top of current participants and alumni who continue to return.

"I’ve grown up here. My dad came out. He did flooding nights—did all that. Late hours and put in all that time for me and it’s just super special,” Wyatt Zwak, alumni of the Duluth Heights Hockey Association said. 

For the kids who play at the community center, the possibility of it shutting down is sad.

“We live like right next to this place so we just go here every single day,” Ashton Petrich, hockey player for the Duluth Heights Hockey Association said. “I mean if its like, you have down time, you just go to the rink and play.”

The City of Duluth estimated that a new roof and other mandated upgrades would cost $250,000-300,000. The entire park’s budget for the year is $500,000. Radzak said that he has been getting quotes on a new roof and the numbers are looking good.

“I think that the city is going to be sadly surprised it’s going to cost almost more to demo this place than it would be to fix it up,’ Radzak said.

Additionally, Radzak says that he and Oppelt have put together a proposal to show the City of Duluth. The two sides are expected to resume talks in December.

“People that have no common interest other than this place were able to sit here and talk and learn from each other so at the end of the day, if we lose that part of the community, I think Duluth and America is in a bad situation because we should be talking to all walks and all types of people,” Radzak said. “And the kids, I mean go upstairs and listen—all the laughter, all the giggling. If that doesn’t carry with them through the rest of their lives, it will. I mean it’s a fact. Anybody that’s hung out at a community center or a hockey rink—they’re still remembering that to this day.”

The community center hopes that they will be able to reach a resolution with the City of Duluth to keep the building open for generations to come.

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Emily Ness

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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