Braemar Arena scores an update

Edina's venerable hockey home will get a big facelift.

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Edina hockey players posed for a group photo on the ice at Braemar Arena in 2008.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Once a hockey palace, Braemar Arena is showing its age. Hockey boosters say the 46-year-old ice arena simply isn't up to today's standards or to the celebrated history of Edina Hornets hockey.

That's why they've started "The Drive for the Hive," an effort to raise money for an addition and remodeling that would restore Braemar's status as one of the region's premier hockey arenas.

The Edina City Council endorsed the concept last week, allowing planning for the project to proceed. Called the Hornet's Nest, the two-story addition would cost between $2.9 million and $3.4 million and would be built on the north side of the Braemar West arena. It would include four locker rooms, two bathrooms, a 10,000 square-foot training facility and a sporting goods store.

"Braemar was state of the art in 1966 ... but the needs and demands of hockey players and figure skaters have evolved," Drive for the Hive leader Eric Anderson told the council last week. "Times have changed and Braemar has changed very little."

Anderson said bigger hockey rosters crowd Braemar's bare-bones locker rooms, which have benches but no lockers. Hockey players now play and train year-round, and Edina hockey players are going to Woodbury, Eden Prairie, Wayzata and other cities to get the services they need.

"The Hornet's Nest project would allow mites through high school to receive training on and off the ice under one roof," Anderson said.

About one-quarter of the project cost, or about $740,000, would be raised through donations. Anderson said his group already has commitments for about $275,000, and a professional fundraiser has offered to help with the effort.

The project's cost would depend on how many improvements are added. For $2.9 million, the Hornet's Nest would include four locker rooms for boys and girls varsity and junior varsity hockey teams, bathrooms, offices for coaches, and equipment storage space. The new locker rooms would have open locker space, benches and flooring with the Edina High School Hornets logo.

The training facility would have areas for weight training, skating treadmills and puck shooting, with the sporting goods store nearby. The training center and store would be leased to private providers, Anderson said.

Edina's Park Board has suggested adding about $480,000 in other improvements to Braemar, including relocating the Zamboni storage room for safety reasons, expanding lobby space and creating an accessible pathway to the arena.

The City Council's unanimous approval of the Hornet's Nest concept means planning will proceed and officials will work on an agreement between the city and Drive for the Hive on the design, budget and operations of the proposed addition.

The council's resolution incorporated Park Board recommendations requiring that private fundraising cover 25 percent of the project cost, that the businesses that run the training facility and store sign 10-year leases, and that hockey and figure skating participants pay a $20 annual surcharge for the 20-year life of the bonds that would be sold to finance the project.

The project now goes back to the Planning Commission. It could come back to the council as early as June.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan

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