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January 13: Fargo Skating Arena

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In 1938, Dr. George Foster and his wife Irene founded the Fargo Winter Club to boost interest in winter sports and athletics. That year, the group partnered with the WPA to build the Fargo Arena, an arena for local residents to participate in skating and other winter sports in more sheltered conditions.

The arena opened the last day of December in 1938, and the Fargo Forum proudly noted that “Fargo’s skating enthusiasts” would “get their first chance at indoor skating.” Though the building was open for action, with the promise of “good ice and music,” residents were cautioned that not everything was completed, but that the warming and other facilities should be ready by mid-January. Some small fees were required for skating, though club members had specified times they could skate for free.

Interest grew quickly. By this date in 1939, the group could boast that 400 people had attended the building’s first informal exhibition of figure skating, and a “skating pro” from Minneapolis had begun coming to Fargo twice a week to teach figure skating. Soon after, large events like the annual Jack Frost Winter Carnival and the annual ice revue were hosted there. This continued until the flood of 1943, when the building was moved, reassembled as an airplane hangar at Hector Field. In its place, a smaller establishment was constructed. It was named the Island Park Arena.

Despite the larger arena being taken down and being replaced, the club continued to prosper. After slightly altering its name, the Fargo-Moorhead Winter Club hosted everything from serious musical numbers to comedy acts, and even brought in famous skaters for guest appearances.

By the 1960s, The Fargo-Moorhead Winter Club evolved into The Red River Valley Figure Skating Club, which has a membership of more than 130 people today. It continues to produce local ice shows, and its members have a history of doing well, performing in traveling “Disney on Ice” productions, and producing medalists at regional, national and international competitions.

The remnants of the Fargo skating arena were officially removed in 1978 when the Island Park pool was constructed. Although the ice arena no longer stands, the original art deco concrete front of the arena remains in place as a backdrop at the pool.

Dakota Datebook by Shelby Kriewald

Sources:

  • Bogenrief, Henry. Men at Work. 1938. Henry Bogenrief Photograph Collection 2052. http://www.digitalhorizonsonline.org/digital/collection/uw/id/4655/rec/11.
  • Briggs, Tracy. “In 1961, the U.S. Lost Its Entire National Figure Skating Team in a Plane Crash and a Fargo Man Lost His Former Partner.” InForum, InForum and Forum Communications Company, 6 Mar. 2021.
  • Briggs, Tracy. “Fargo-Moorhead was once home to the largest indoor ice arena in the nation serving one of the oldest figure skating clubs.” InForum, InForum and Forum Communications Company, 1 Mar. 2021.
  • February 21, 1939, Richland County Farmer-Globe, p. 5.
  • January 12, 1939, Westhope Standard, p. 7.
  • January 30, 1940, Richland County Farmer-Globe, p. 1.
  • January 29, 1942, Beulah Independent, p. 2.
  • January 29, 1942, Columbus Reporter, p. 7.
  • February 13, 1942, Richland County Farmer-Globe, p. 1.
  • February 18, 1947, Richland County Farmer-Globe, p. 10.
  • November 18, 1996, Hillsboro Banner, p. 1.
  • Fargo Forum, December 30, 1938, p1; evening edition

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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