50 YEARS IN THE MAKING

Hoyt Lakes Arena 50th Anniversary organizer Ken Corbett is shown at the facility recently.

HOYT LAKES — The Hoyt Lakes Arena is turning 50 this year and the facility and all it means to the community will be celebrated during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Whether it was playing hockey and basketball, attending wedding receptions or just hanging out, community members felt right at home at the arena, said Ken Corbett of Hoyt Lakes, who is spearheading the anniversary celebration next month.

“Growing up in town, it was more than a hockey arena. People would gather here,’’ Corbett said last week. “We had roller skating at one time. There were always people playing foosball out in the lobby,’’ basketball in the gym or open skating on the ice sheet itself. “It was kind of a place to hang out in town when Hoyt Lakes was booming back in the late 70s and early 80s. It was kind of a hang out spot for the kids.’’

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Events will begin at the arena on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, and run through Sunday. Derek Peterson’s Iron Range Goalie Academy will also be holding a goalie clinic during the week.

The schedule to date is as follows:

Thursday

* 6-7:30 p.m.: Community skating party.

* 7:30-9 p.m.: Open hockey.

* 7-9 p.m.: Hockey-oriented movies for kids in the gym.

* 8 p.m.-midnight: Bonfire behind the arena parking lot.

Friday

* In the morning (times TBD): Youth and alumni hockey games, along with alumni basketball and volleyball games in the gym.

* 4-6 p.m.: Barbecue (Mesabi East band will be on hand).

* 4 p.m.: Eveleth-Gilbert/Mesabi East JV to play International Falls.

* 6 p.m.: Eveleth-Gilbert/Mesabi East varsity to play International Falls.

* Evening: The University of Minnesota Duluth national championship trophies (both men’s and women’s) will be on display in the gym.

Saturday

* In the morning, a full slate of youth hockey and alumni games (times TBD).

* 5-7 p.m.: Banquet featuring speakers Jim Knapp (Aurora/Hoyt Lakes hockey coach in the early 1980s and later UMD assistant coach) and Tom Gillach (longtime school district athletic director).

* 7 p.m.: Local police and fire hockey team to play Wounded Warrior team out of Duluth.

* 8 p.m.-midnight: Dance and live music sponsored by the Hoyt Lakes Water Carnival.

Sunday

* A full slate of youth hockey and alumni games (times TBD).

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Corbett, who has been working on the event for about one year, said the process to get the arena built started in the mid-1960s. After an arena committee was formed by instrumental residents, the facility was built a few years later.

Wayne Tuttle (a prominent figure at Erie and LTV mining) was instrumental at the time and now plans to fly in from Arizona for the celebration.

The idea was a fairly simple one, Corbett said. Tuttle’s son played hockey and a group of parents and spectators were sitting out at the rink. With they a chill in the air, he said an indoor rink was needed. A few years later, it became a reality, thanks in part to legislator Fred Cina.

In addition to Tuttle, Paul Forlan (the first arena manager) plans to visit from Texas for the event.

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Fast forward to Thanksgiving, Corbett said, “It’s going to be a great week.’’

In addition to the events themselves, there will be different contests during periods of the high school game with some great prizes. Former NHLers Brian Lee and Matt Cullen have donated autograph sticks and materials for the various raffles.

The Dougherty family, owner of Rainy Lake Houseboats, has also donated a houseboat trip. The Dougherty family was instrumental in the early days of the arena, Corbett said.

Derek Peterson also has hats to give the kids, as well as a hockey mask featuring all of the Iron Range hockey schools.

“It’s pretty neat.’’

Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to pre-register so shirts and jerseys for the various games can be pre-ordered.

With so much planned, “we’re trying to make it so it’s pretty reasonable for people to come and enjoy it.’’

Event ticket prices have been set at $40. That includes a backpack from sponsor Iron Range Tourism, an event T-shirt, a barbecue ticket, a banquet ticket, high school hockey game ticket, Wounded Warrior game ticket and a raffle ticket for the houseboat trip. Any excess funds will be donated to Wounded Warriors, some to the high school, some to youth hockey and some to the city to keep the arena open and running, Corbett said.

Those wanting to pre-register should contact Corbett at 218-410-3780. He and the city are also in the process of setting up an online payment system.

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Just like it was, and continues to be, the arena will be the focal point of the community come late Thanksgiving.

When Corbett was growing up, he said it was common for him to borrow his dad’s truck to drive to the arena to roller skate, play video games (like USA vs. USSR bubble hockey) or take on his friends in foosball.

The arena was packed from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturdays and from 12-6 p.m. on Sundays.

Many others have similar memories and those of all ages are looking to attend the 50th anniversary celebration.

So far, the response has been great, according to Corbett.

“We’re going to have a big party on Thanksgiving weekend.’’

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