Months after the city of Fridley announced it would purchase and demolish the old Columbia Arena, officials will hold public workshops to help determine the future of the 14-acre site.

The four sessions in March and April will give residents and business owners a chance to tell city leaders what they think should replace the old hockey arena, said Paul Bolin, assistant executive director of Fridley’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

“We’re going to … have the community tell us what needs and wants they have that can maybe be met on the site,” Bolin said.

At the workshops, community members will be able to work with architecture and finance experts on scale block models and draft plans for site proposals, said Scott Hickok, Fridley’s community development director. City officials will then consider the recommendations.

“Somebody who is used to doing the drafting will draw something up,” Hickok said, “and the finance person at that table will put a price on it, and that becomes the recommendation.”

City officials used a similar workshop process to help redevelop a row of vacant commercial buildings, replacing them with the Cielo, a 256-unit apartment complex, he said.

Now residential units are again on the table to revamp a blighted property.

“We’re going into the Columbia Arena site with a completely open mind,” Hickok said.

Columbia Arena opened in 1969 and was originally owned by Anoka County, which transferred ownership to the nonprofit National Sports Center Foundation in the 1990s.

The arena had a brush with fame in the mid-1990s, when Walt Disney Pictures filmed part of “D3: The Mighty Ducks,” the third movie in the youth hockey trilogy, at the facility.

But by 2006, the arena faced millions of dollars in renovations, prompting the Sports Center Foundation to sell the site and add new sheets of ice to its facility in Blaine.

Vacant since then, the arena has been targeted by vandals and graffiti artists, Bolin said.

Private developers tried for years to find a new use for the site. Proposals over the years included senior housing and medical offices, Hickok said, but no new projects ever took off.

Then the city bought the property last year for $2.6 million, intending to find a use for it, Hickok said.

“We see it as a gem. We really do see it as something where a very nice iconic development could be built,” he said. “It will be very visible.”

Tearing the arena down has been a given since the purchase. The Fridley City Council declared the property blighted at an August meeting.

“We won’t demolish it until late spring or early summer,” Bolin said, adding that the city plans to start looking for contractors around that time.

The city will hold the first of its four community workshops on March 11, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Fridley Community Center.