The city of Fridley is poised to buy the dilapidated Columbia Arena this week and to start demolition as early as this fall.
The 1960s-era ice hockey arena has sat empty for years as private developers who owned it tried to find a new use for the property.
The city will spend $2.6 million for the 14-acre site, with a closing set for Thursday.
City leaders say the arena gives them a rare chance to redevelop a large piece of land in a developed suburb.
“We have an opportunity to purchase this large eyesore,” said Paul Bolin, Fridley’s assistant executive director of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority. “We are not going to just rush into any project. We are going to take our time and make sure whatever direction we head in, that it’s meeting a number of our community needs and goals.”
Columbia Arena, at 7011 University Av. NE., opened in 1969 and was originally owned by Anoka County. In the 1990s, the county transferred ownership to the National Sports Center Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up by the state of Minnesota.
The arena had a brush with fame. “D3: The Mighty Ducks,” the third movie in the Disney hockey trilogy, was filmed at Columbia Arena in the mid-1990s.
The facility went downhill from there.
Faced with millions of dollars of repairs and upgrades in 2006, the National Sports Center Foundation sold the Columbia Arena and instead opted to add new sheets of ice at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
Private developers owned the property for the last decade and considered several concepts, such as senior housing and medical offices. But no new projects ever broke ground. Now vacant, the facility has become a target for vandals and graffiti artists.
The city hired an engineering firm to examine the arena, which determined the property would qualify as blighted under Minnesota law. The Fridley City Council declared it blighted at an August meeting, which could unlock new financial options to offset redevelopment costs, said Scott Hickok, Fridley’s community development director.
The arena, which once hosted dozens of youth and amateur hockey practices, games and tournaments, continues to deteriorate.
Bolin said during the city’s master plan update a few years ago many said they would like to see the property redeveloped. The facility is surrounding by a firefighter training facility, a church, Locke Park and a neighborhood.
“Our residents see it a real eyesore,” Bolin said.