John Gardiner explains why Pagel Ice Arena’s two ice sheets have been a huge hit for the entire Minnetonka Community
John Gardiner recognized early in to his parenting years that there was a need for an ice facility in the heart of Minnetonka, Minnesota. Toting his two hockey-playing kiddos, Max and Jake, who is currently a defenseman with the Toronto Maple Leafs, all around the western suburbs for practice and games was wearing.
Enter Pagel Ice Arena. Built in 1991, Gardiner was a part of the group that first brought a sheet of ice right to the Minnetonka High School Skippers campus, bleeding team colors blue and white from the moment high school students and youth step foot in the area.
Gardiner sat down with us to discuss the original process of bringing Pagel to Minnetonka and the important role it plays in the success and growth of the area’s hockey community.
HTG: Is it true that the original idea for the Pagel Ice Arena came from a group of exhausted hockey parents?
John Gardiner: [Laughs] Pretty much. There was a group of about 10 of us that were experiencing the hassles of going to five different rinks. It was Minnetonka, it was Hopkins, it was Chaska, it was downtown Minneapolis at the Edison rink; the only rink we had in Minnetonka was the Minnetonka Ice Arena and we shared that with the Hopkins group and Wayzata. So you can only imagine how much running that was, especially with multiple kids playing hockey. There was a huge need in the Minnetonka organization to expand and get more ice.
We got a group together and started a fundraising project. The Minnetonka school board agreed on buying the ice during the day, which was a homerun because that ice is very unsellable unless you’ve got a figure skating group or something like that, so it was a very good situation with the school. They have broomball, they have skating indoors now, there was a running track on top and a weight room for the football team, so it was just a homerun for everybody.
It was a tedious, hard, long battle to raise that money and now the kids are reaping the benefits.
HTG: I bet the day you opened the doors was pretty amazing. What was that moment like when the facility finally opened?
Gardiner: The ribbon cutting ceremony was unbelievable. It was just a huge relief having worked on it, from start to finish, for the past two years. It was just really gratifying and really rewarding for everyone involved and was just really, really awesome to finally get it done.
HTG: You’ve seen your fair share of rinks around the country, what is your favorite aspect or amenity at Pagel?
Gardiner: I think it’s really fun to have that on campus at Minnetonka High School. It almost feels like a small little village every time you go up there. There’s an energy around the high school with the baseball fields and the football field down below.
The other part is the locker rooms for the boy’s and girl’s Varsity and Junior Varsity teams. They have a lot of people say that it’s as nice as a Divisioin III college, so that’s pretty cool.
HTG: Plus, the location is ideal for those Varsity and JV skaters, right?
Gardiner: Yeah, it really is. Those kids get out of class at 2:50 and they’re on the ice at 3:05. They just walk across the lot to the locker room—how great is that. It used to be they’d get in the car at 3 p.m., get their equipment and drive to a rink. I don’t know what the numbers are but I guarantee the youth numbers have grown tremendously once we got the rink built.
HTG: At least enough to add a second sheet, Pagel 2, which opened this past June. How exciting is it now to have a two-sheet facility in the community?
Gardiner: It’s really the kids that have reaped the benefits. To be able to have ice available like that right there is just really, really great. I think [Pagel] has really contributed to the success of kids in Minnetonka. It’s just built so much energy and kids are pushing each other.
When they added another sheet in the last year, that’s been fabulous in itself. Pagel truly is world class. Pagel 2 has meeting rooms, dryland training spaces, workout areas, it’s a win for everyone.
Pagel 2 Ice Arena was designed by HTG Architects’ Tom Moorse. Chuck Frieberg designed the original rink while employed with another firm. Chuck recently retired from HTG.