Face-off in Alexandria over funding for new hockey rinks

A new sports complex planned for the campus of NorthStar Christian Academy

Alexandria’s eagerness for a new hockey rink has spawned what some see as uncomfortable competition.

The NorthStar Group broke ground last month on a 70,000-square-foot sports complex that will include a hockey rink as well as a fieldhouse with space for soccer, golf, baseball and softball. The group also oversees NorthStar Christian Academy, a private religious school that opened in 2016 across the street from Alexandria’s public high school.

The NorthStar Group is launching a drive to raise money for its arena, which will become the national headquarters for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) hockey programs.

Meanwhile, the city is trying to secure a state bond issue — which would be matched with city and private funds — to add a third rink at the Runestone Community Center, a city-owned facility that’s been the only indoor hockey arena since it opened in 1977.

“There could be two different fundraising operations for hockey going on at the same time,” said Mayor Sara Carlson. “That’s where a little controversy has arisen.”

Carlson said the city asked the NorthStar Group to partner on a new rink at the Runestone, but it didn’t pan out.

“In complete honesty, it has set us back a little bit as a city, waiting to see what was going to happen with NorthStar and them raising their money and then going ahead,” she said.

“They are a teaching academy. They have a specific niche they want to fill for the FCA,” she said. “The times they needed were prime times that the city couldn’t promise them.”

Brian Klimek, president of the Alexandria Area Hockey Association, said his group – with nearly 400 youth players — welcomes an additional rink, no matter who’s running it.

“We do not plan to reduce our hours at the Runestone Community Center,” he said. “We plan to add additional hours at the NorthStar complex to have more kids on the ice.”

In a news release, the NorthStar Group said it was excited “to offer a safe place where athletes can come to train while being uplifted by servant leaders and coaches.”

On balance, Carlson said, she’s happy to see the NorthStar project take shape, even though it has complicated the city’s efforts.

“We are a city that wants to grow, and we welcome private enterprise,” she said. “It brings people to town, and we like that.”