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Vandals use huge cranes to do $500,000 in damage at ice arena

Overnight vandals caused more than $500,000 in damage at the Urban Plains Center construction site in south Fargo, according to an initial estimate from police.

Fargo police Sgt. Jeff Skuza said authorities were notified at 7:20 a.m. Monday of vandalism at the future $25 million hockey arena.

Between Sunday night and Monday morning, vandals managed to operate two cranes at the site - one inside and one outside the building. They used the cranes to damage the structure and the cranes, according to a police news release.

The vandals started up one crane, raised the boom and bent a beam supporting the arena's roof.

Construction site manager Trevor Speidel said the vandals also used a crane to smash a concrete block, shattered windows and threw equipment off the roof of the Urban Plains Center, punching a hole in the concrete below.

"They didn't understand the controls (of the crane)," Speidel said. "If that crane would have been a little bit farther back, they would have tore that whole beam down."

It could have created a domino effect, "and you'd probably have lost half the building," Speidel said.

An initial report from the building architect indicates the damage will not affect the timeline to be finished by Oct. 31, said Todd Berning, president of the Metro Sports Foundation that runs the UP Center.

"We just have to work through it," Berning said. "From that aspect, it's good news ... It's nothing that we can't work around. We're fortunate it happened the way it did happen."

The procedure is for workers to take keys out of the cranes. However, the keys were in and the machinery running when workers arrived Monday morning, Berning said.

Other vandalism at the site included the word "Yeah" written on the side of the building. A generator was among the items thrown off the roof, Berning said.

The builders and Metro Sports Foundation have insurance and have notified their insurance companies, he said.

Berning said extra security measures will be put in place as a result of the vandalism.

"We're just lucky nobody got hurt. We're lucky we can fix it and keep moving," he said.

When finished, the UP Center's 5,000-seat main rink will house Fargo Public Schools, Fargo Shanley and the U.S. Hockey League's Fargo Force, led by former University of North Dakota hockey coach Dean Blais.

Meanwhile, Fargo police are asking for information from the public about the Urban Plains Center vandalism.

Tips can be reported to the Investigations Office at (701) 241-1405 during the day or to dispatch at (701) 235-4493 after hours.

Anyone who wishes to remain anonymous may call the TIP Line at (701) 241-5777, where callers can leave a recorded message.