New Prairie Lakes Ice Arena Opens in Watertown

WATERTOWN, SD – March 1, 2024 – Designed by JLG Architects, Watertown, SD’s new $36.5 million Prairie Lakes Ice Arena opened its doors on February 23, 2024. This weekend (March 1-3), Prairie Lakes Ice Arena will host the South Dakota Girls Varsity Hockey State Tourney (SDAHA). Game 1 will start at 9:00 A.M., with Mitchell Marlins Vs. Rushmore Thunder.

With a collaborative planning effort between the City and JLG Architects, Watertown’s 90,800 SF Arena is now the region’s premier hockey and figure skating facility, including state-of-the-art amenities for fans, athletes, and community. The 1,500-seat Arena offers an elevated spectator experience with loge seating and club and ice-level suites.

“The ice level club rooms are an exciting asset that allows fans to be ‘in the corner’ during game action – these ‘ice patios’ are a really cool feature that few community rinks have and will set this building apart for years to come.”

Rick Mack, JLG Architects

Prairie Lakes Ice Arena was designed to be a multi-use facility that expands Watertown’s recreational programming while offering flexible space for meeting rooms and community gatherings. The Arena’s lobby is aligned with this goal, creating a community gathering space with large seating areas and fireside lounges open to surrounding views.

Prairie Lakes Ice Arena is located at 3015 1st Ave NE, on newly developed land adjacent to the I-29 freeway; an opportunity to showcase its well-lit, contemporary façade featuring the “Watertown Wave” in white precast.  

For enhanced facility performance, JLG sustainably designed two new ice sheets with natural and LED lighting, low VOC and recyclable materials and finishes, energy recovery on all major HVAC, and refrigeration waste heat recovery. Prairie Lakes Ice Arena also accommodates future growth with a facility designed to expand, allowing space for a third ice sheet, dryland training, and a future Junior Team.

The Junior Team franchise will be the seventh team in the North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) Central Division, along with the Aberdeen Wings, Austin Bruins, Bismarck Bobcats, Minot Minotauros, North Iowa Bulls, and St. Cloud Norsemen.

Prompting the build was an increasing demand for expansion of Watertown’s hockey and figure skating programs, both formerly based in an aging ice arena at the fairgrounds. JLG assisted the City with its future programming, helping analyze existing participation and explore new athletic facility trends to create a regional destination benefiting programs throughout the State of South Dakota.

“Only a few days after the building opened, I was told there were six times as many participants at the ‘Try Hockey for Free’ event versus past events,” said JLG Architects’ Rick Mack. “That speaks volumes for the excitement this community has for skating and the desire for a facility this encompassing. I am also excited to see the growth of curling at this facility, possibly an expansion with a curling-focused rink!”

The City of Watertown is planning an official grand opening for a to-be-determined date in the spring of 2024.

Tracy Nicholson, JLG Architects