Detroit Lakes looks to upgrade Kent Freeman Arena in coming years

Members of the city council viewed preliminary upgrade plans for the Kent Freeman Arena during their work session on Dec. 21. The upgrade would feature a linked concourse for both arenas, added seating in arena two, new locker rooms and a two-floor performance training area that could be a partnership opportunity in the proposed expansion.

Preliminary conceptual design for proposed Kent Freeman Arena expansion. Jan. 3, 2022. (submitted)

The Kent Freeman Arena in Detroit Lakes could see a major facelift in the coming years after preliminary plans were unveiled to members of the Detroit Lakes City Council on Dec. 21.

Chad Carlblom, chairman of the city's arena commission, said the potential upgrade paves the way for a community attraction, and possible partnerships, that are not solely focused on hockey games, but a usable space for many different types of events.

"We really tried to explore the opportunity of how can we partner with other people to make this a win, win, win, win, win for everybody, the community, corporate partnership and the facility down there," said Carlblom. "At this point, the unknown is always a bit of an apprehension for people when they first start looking at things, but ultimately I hope people can take it as a unique opportunity for us to be able to really improve a city asset that is in need of some upgrade and improvement. And it allows us opportunity to be more diverse as a community in what we can offer the people -- I hope they hear it out as this process continues to proceed forward."

Carlblom said, while the plans are extremely preliminary, the city needs to start digging into these potential renovations, because they will take years to become finalized and constructed. Currently, there is no estimated project cost, but it is expected to be high, which is why a business partnership for the proposed training center makes sense, since it could bring in annual funds for the city and the renovated building.

"As we come out of COVID here, there has been a unique opportunity in being able to get some corporate buy-in as far as naming rights, as well as the ability to lease the space so that we can get some additional revenue to pay for this stuff," he said. "We know we have these growth needs and space needs to accommodate our existing operations down there with the high school programs and youth programs and … what we are giving to the community isn't just an addition to a hockey arena, but it's the opportunity to have additional venues down there and additional types of things we can promote, whether it's home and boat shows or MMA fights."


Carblom also said it's really more of a "community-oriented" project instead of just a hockey project. He added the city has three main paths forward in regards to the arena. First, they could continue to operate the arena in a 1960s format, which is what they are doing now. They could expand with funding entirely from the city, or they could expand with community support or outside partnerships.

"I guess the point of this is having an exercise in seeing what it could look like," said Kelcey Klemm, city administrator for Detroit Lakes. "Obviously, it's very preliminary, a lot of discussion has to take place, but it's got to start somewhere."

Klemm said the potential arena upgrade could be partnered with a possible Pavilion upgrade on the lakefront and be the focus of a new local-option sales tax after the Detroit Lakes Police Station is paid off in spring of 2023. The sales tax has worked so well that the police station is expected to be paid off nearly five years early. However, the measure would still need to face a city-wide ballot referendum, possibly as part of the 2024 general election, before any plans could be acted upon.

"Part of the question is: What is the appetite for the referendum?" said Klemm. "While 2024 seems like a long ways off, it's not. And I think that this process with the arena, a process that we're going to have to do with The Pavilion … but we're going to have to start diving a little bit deeper into what that actually looks like, and start actually getting some cost estimates so we are ready for something in 2024."

Features of the potential remodel include:

  • A performance training area with synthetic ice, batting cages, weight training and golf simulator.
  • New varsity and junior varsity locker rooms.
  • A linked lobby area for both arenas.
  • New seating in arena two.
  • New concessions and merch shopping area.
  • New conference rooms with areas for catering.
  • A new Zamboni garage and storage areas


Preliminary first floor plan for a proposed Kent Freeman Arena expansion. Jan. 3, 2022. (submitted)

Preliminary second floor plan for a proposed Kent Freeman Arena expansion. Jan. 3, 2022. (submitted)

"With the project, this initial concept, it looks great," said Klemm. "It is a pretty sizable expansion and a component of that, too, is that lease space that is something that needs to be vetted, so I think it's a starting point."

During the presentation at the council work session, Ron Zeman, Alderman for Ward One, said the city should have been made aware of plans before the arena commission paid for the initial designs, since the commission reports to the council and not the other way around.

Preliminary site plan for a proposed Kent Freeman Arena upgrade. Jan. 3, 2022. (submitted)

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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