by Dennis Dalman
A long-anticipated dream – a second large ice sheet by Bernick’s Arena – will now come true, thanks largely to a corporate donation from Scheels All Sports.
The announcement of Scheels’ lead gift was made by the Sartell Youth Recreation Center (SYRC), which has been raising funds for a second ice sheet since 2017. The substantial gift from Scheels means the SYRC now has enough to start building the year-round amenity.
The SYRC operates the maintains the Bernick’s Arena.
The exact amount of the gift, which has been described as “substantial,” has not yet been announced.
At the April 8 Sartell City Council meeting, council members voted unanimously to allow Scheels to have naming rights, which was requested as part of the donation. The entire park in which Bernick’s Arena is located, north of city hall, will be named Scheels Athletic Complex.
Chad Ritter, a SYRC board member, told the City Council at its April 8 meeting why a second ice sheet has long been needed: an increase in Sartell’s population, which in turn brought more hockey players and more interest in the game of hockey by players and spectators, and an increasing strain on the number of recreational spaces and athletic fields in the city – not just for hockey and other sports but for other forms of social activities, such as concerts, dances, craft fairs and more.
Before the Scheels’ donation, the SYRC and the Sartell Youth Hockey Association succeed in raising $1.75 million, with another $250,000 in pledges, Ritter noted.
“The Scheels Athletic Complex will help address this crunch the community is feeling across the board – in multiple sports,” said Ritter after hearing of the Scheels’ contribution.
Bernick’s Arena, which cost $2.4 million and involved thousands of hours of work by volunteers, opened in 2003. Through the years, many updates and improvements were added to the arena, including purchase of a new zamboni ice machine. In 2017, the city of Sartell paid for a greatly expanded paved parking lot in a field to the east of the arena, with 283 parking spaces.
Besides being a heavily used hockey venue, the arena and its grounds are used often for nonskating events such as a farmers’ market, craft fairs, concerts and dances.
Kevin Murphy, Scheels store leader/partner for the St. Cloud store, said that as a sporting goods store, the Scheels All Sports managements and employees are excited to partner with SYRC.
“After thoughtful consideration and consultation with our corporate board,” said Murphy in a press release, “we decided the naming rights for the complex was a solid investment for a number of reasons . . . As business owners, we are very excited about the partnership with SYRC, the city (of Sartell) and strengthening our presence in a rapidly growing community.”
The ice sheet project will be constructed in several phases as a year-round athletic complex and entertainment venue. The ice rink will have a refrigerated concrete floor, a roof over the open-air ice sheet, stationary seating, a turf system for multiple sports and inside the Bernick’s arena a lobby overlooking the outdoor ice rink and expanded lockers.
The first phase of construction will involve the ice sheet, its infrastructure and amenities at an estimated cost of $2.9 million. The other phases will cost $1.1 million and $1.3 million. Construction can begin this summer.
Scheels All Sports began in 1902 when a German immigrant, Frederick A. Scheel, bought a home-supply and hardware store in Sabin, Minnesota, which became so successful Scheel expanded the store into other cities.
Eventually, the Scheels hardware stores began adding more and more athletic equipment until by 1989 one of the stores, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, was the first Scheels store to offer solely sporting equipment.
Scheels All Sports, which is employee-owned, now has stores at 27 locations in 13 states. The company has a policy to donate at least 10 percent of its profits to local charities and local nonprofit organizations.
The Scheel family is still very much a part of the company. Steve D. Scheel, the grandson of founder Frederick Scheel, is the company’s chairman of the board. Steve M. Scheel, the great-great grandson of the founder, is the company’s chief executive officer.