Baudette scores a big donation

An anonymous donor has paved the way for a new energy-efficient hockey arena in Baudette, Minnesota.


Minnkota Power Cooperative


January 2, 2020

When Baudette built a hockey arena in 1964 and 1965, the entire community chipped in to make it possible.

The arena board’s 1966 annual report said more than 400 people combined to volunteer nearly 12,000 hours on the project. Fast-forward several decades and the city’s new arena is in big part the doing of one person – a mystery donor. The man, who declined to be identified, donated $6 million to build the new $7 million Lake of the Woods International Arena.

To boot, the donor is donating a sustainability fund for the arena. All Baudette officials will say is that the donor was born and raised in Baudette.

“The main mission behind this – the donor who wishes to remain anonymous said – through this whole thing is to get more kids skating,” said Mike Schulz, member of the Lake of the Woods International Arena board of directors.

The arena receives its electricity from North Star Electric Cooperative, one of the 11 member-owners of Minnkota. North Star provided incentives to help the arena board build the 1,000-plus-capacity facility as energy efficient as possible, paying out more than $12,000 in rebates for materials such as LED lighting and lighting controls.

Don Krause instructs a skater at the Lake of the Woods Hockey School. The event was one of the first activities on the new ice sheet. (Minnkota/Kevin Jeffrey)

Unique features

This is not your typical arena.

Windows were placed on the north side of the facility so people interested in skating can see if the lights are on as they approach the building from Minnesota State Highway 11. After 20 to 30 minutes of inactivity, the lights over the rink dim.

“The other thing is, during the day, that light is coming in,” Schulz said. “You go to a normal rink during the day and it’s like going into a cave.”

The lighting also features a dim option. While the lights might be at 40% capacity during practices, they will be at 100% during games.

Other unique features of the arena include:

• Radiant heating above the bleachers to help remove the chill for fans before games.

• A penalty box located between the players boxes of each team to ensure seamless viewing for fans. Usually it’s on the other side of the ice.

Bought land from school

The arena board purchased the land for the new arena from the Lake of the Woods school district for $1. The new building rests a few inches from the school’s swimming pool, which abuts the school. It’s a well-designed concept, with football and track and field facilities across the road from the arena. Everything sports happens to the west of Baudette on school property. In fact, spring sports can use the arena when needed.

“We went from a synthetic system to a natural system,” Schulz said. “It’s a much more efficient system. Right now this system is equal to or better than any NHL rink out there. It’s state of the art. This is something where we thought investing a little more money was a wise idea.”

Kevin Holen, North Star member services manager, said the amperage draw on the building is minimal, even with the ice plant running.

“I think the cost savings are going to be beneficial,” he said.

Since the donor was most interested in providing a skating experience for youth, the arena will have equipment available for those who want to try the sport or are back in the Baudette area for the holidays.

A skater goes through a drill at the Lake of the Woods Hockey School. (Minnkota/Kevin Jeffrey)

The fan experience was also important for organizers.

“We tried to make a great view of the ice surface for a game. If you notice out here along the glass, there’s the aluminum stanchions. But when you get in front of the bleachers, it’s all seamless glass,” Schulz said.

Holen said the arena is under demand response control. A used CAT diesel generator on the north side of the arena allows for great savings on the electricity bill. This demand response program is voluntary for customers who allow Minnkota to turn off, by remote control, electric heaters and interruptible loads in exchange for a discounted electric rate.

Though they received a big check, board members didn’t spend wildly on the building.

“We had the generous gift up front,” Schulz said. “And we have sustainability, too, but we have to be responsible.”

Lake of the Woods has been known for having one of the coldest rinks in northwest Minnesota. The new arena will change that a bit, but the rink will remain cool. Fans will see a temperature improvement in the stands, but coaches and players prefer hard, fast-paced ice.

The arena also is handicap accessible. Sam Lyon, the arena director, invited residents from the local nursing home to the facility to watch some youth hockey this past summer. They took the elevator up a floor and saw a great view of the ice through the glass.

“These are things you don’t think about in the beginning,” Schulz said. “But they were able to go in that elevator, get upstairs and now these people will be able to come and watch.”

Several local businesses, including Border State Bank and AmericInn, are big financial supporters of the project.

The first boys high school varsity game was Nov. 30. Lake of the Woods played host to International Falls in a rivalry game. Sponsoring the event was Border State Bank, which has locations in both Baudette and International Falls.

“And it’s going to become an annual thing – the Battle of the Border,” Schulz said.


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