Tuesday, 7 December, 2021

420 N. Pokegama Ave

Grand Rapids, MN 55744

City Hall: 218-326-7600


IRA Civic Center Improvement Project

The IRA Civic Center was originally constructed in 1962 by the Itasca Recreation Association, hence the “IRA” in IRA Civic Center.  This facility has been a regional asset for over fifty-seven years hosting trade shows, classic car events, high school graduations, weddings, amateur ice sports, and many other types of events.  In addition, it serves as an election polling facility and an emergency shelter.



Recognizing the age of the facility, over fifty-seven years, it has need for critical infrastructure upgrades.  In particular, the west venue roof and refrigeration are in need of replacement.  Because of two truss failures, most recently in November of 2017, the City had two structural engineering firms review and structurally analyze the West Venue truss system.  Detail follows:

  • Volunteers constructed the original wood truss system in 1962.

  • It was donated to the City in 1968.

  • It was designed to carry 20 pounds per square foot (psf), current building code is 46 psf.

  • Two truss members have failed with the most recent in November of 2017.

  • The truss/roof system has been modeled/analyzed by Jon Aamodt, a registered structural engineer in the State of Minnesota.  Highlights of his opinions and recommendations follow:

“In our professional opinion, the severe under-capacity of the 1962 roof trusses is a dangerous condition and should be corrected.”

“Signage should be considered to warn the public and employees of the significant under-capacity of the roof structure for snow loading.”

“In our professional opinion the West facility should not be used in the winter months unless/until the building official, building ownership and other parties agree on temporary measures to protect the public and adjacent structures.”

“The venue should be closed during a significant snow event, with the understanding that a partial failure has occurred with less than 6 inches of snow on the roof.”

  • To address these recommendations/opinions the City has instituted the following:

Signs have been placed at entry doors warning the public of the dangerous situation.

All snowfall events are immediately removed from the roof.

Events are cancelled when heavy snowfall is occurring.


CLICK HERE for Crane Engineering Structural Report

CLICK HERE for Grand Rapids IRA Roof Truss Evaluation

CLICK HERE for Grand Rapids IRA Roof Truss Member failure

CLICK HERE for Grand Rapids IRA Roof Truss Member Repair


Other needs at the Civic Center include:

  • The refrigeration system is starting to fail and utilizes R-22 coolant which can no longer be produced or imported to the United States.

  • The HVAC systems are over 40 years in age, have exceeded their life, and require replacement.
    CLICK HERE for HVAC Report

  • The locker rooms have shared bathrooms creating conflict when scheduling girls and boys events.

  • Accessibility does not meet current ADA laws requiring the installation of an elevator.


Trusses at the IRA Civic Center


IRA Civic Center Steering Committee

To develop the needed improvements at the Civic Center, the Grand Rapids City Council established a 19-person steering committee.  The purpose of the committee was to:

  • Recommend what type of roof structure should be utilized to replace the existing West Venue.

  • Determine if the roof between the West and East Venue should, be raised creating a heated viewing area.

  • Analyze and recommend modifications to address locker configurations for the East Venue.

  • Develop a recommendation on how to pay for the needed improvements.


The committee consisted of the following people:






Chuck Beck

Member at Large


Jim Hoolihan

Member at Large

Spencer Igo

Member at Large


Shantel Dow

Member at Large

Mark Gothard

Member at Large


Liz Miskovich

Member at Large

Peter Miskovich

Member at Large


Mindy Nuhring

GR Area Chamber

Melissa Swenson

GR Area Chamber


Megan Christianson

Visit Grand Rapids

Wayne Roskos

Visit Grand Rapids


Sam Johnson

GRA Hockey

Jeremy Carlson

GRA Hockey


Shannon Wourms

Star of North Skating

Brad Hyduke

ISD 318


Anne Campbell

ISD 318

Tasha Connelly

City Representative


Dale Anderson

City Representative

Kelly Hain

Member at Large





Starting in July of 2019, the committee met seven times for a minimum of 90 minutes each time.  Subject professionals with backgrounds in architectural, structural engineering, construction methods, building codes and public finance, supported the committee.

The Committee unanimously recommended the following direction to the City Council:

  • The West Venue roof/truss system should be replaced with a similar wood system that replicates the original look.

  • Although not one of the City Council questions, the committee recommends replacing the West Venue refrigeration system and interconnecting it to the East Venue refrigeration system.

  • East Venue locker rooms must have separate toilet and shower areas without multiple entry points to separate girls and boys teams.  Information on bonding from the State is necessary before the committee can make a final recommendation on locker rooms.

  • A 1% Local Sales and Use Tax should be implemented as long as it expires within six years.

Final recommendations, based on State funding, will be presented to the City Council, once the State Legislative session is complete in May of 2020.


Common Questions

Why has the City not taken care of the Civic Center?  The City has invested over $1 million ($1,000,000) over the past ten years. 
CLICK HERE for details

Why does the City not have a reserve fund to pay for the replacement of the roof on the Civic Center? The City does not collect and hold tax payer money for future projects.

Why don’t user fees pay for the improvements?  User fees do cover the annual operating and maintenance expenses.  It would be unaffordable to cover major capital improvements through user fees.

Shouldn’t City property taxes pay for the project?  The IRA Civic Center is a regional facility that serves diverse public needs with over 60% of the users being non-residents. 

Isn’t this just a hockey arena serving a small portion of our community?  In addition to serving as a voter polling place for two precincts and an emergency shelter, the Civic Center, on an annual basis hosts the following events:


Non-City Participants


Non-City Participants

Sandstrom’s Food Buyer’s Show

52 Vendors

96% Non-Residents

NMBA Builder’s Show

71 Vendors were

42% Non-Residents

Jaycee’s Home, Sport, and Travel Show

56 Vendors

59% Non-Residents

Tour of Minnesota Bike Event

187 Participants

100% Non-Residents

Northern Cruisers Car Club Banquet


400 Participants

More than 90% were Non-Residents

Northern MN Craft & Vendor Show

54 Vendors

87% Non-Residents

MN Street Rod Association Fall Camp-Out

425 Participants

More than 90% were Non-Residents

Student Angler Bass Tournament Rules Meeting and Headquarters

186 Participants

More than 90% were Non-Residents

Classic Bass Tournament Rules Meeting

48 Participants

+ Media

100% Non-Residents


GRAHA Walleye Shootout Tournament Headquarters

More than 90% were


HWY 38 Sales



Lakewoods Chrysler Car Sale



Private Wedding Receptions


85% Non-Residents

ISD #318 Kindergarten Round-Up

60% Non-Residents

Itasca Father / Daughter Ball

70% Non-Residents

Children’s Mental Health 5K


Children First Expo

60% Non-Residents

GRHS Graduation

60% Non-Residents

GRHS Prom & Post-Prom Party

60% Non-Residents

GRHS College Fair

80% Non-Residents

MS Walk


Election Precinct

100% City Residents

Community Connect


H.S. Field Sports

60% Non-Residents

GRPD Car Seat Safety

100% Non-Residents




Can the existing trusses be repaired?  Yes, but it would be considerably more expensive than complete replacement. 

Is there a benefit to keeping the IRA Civic Center open?  Yes.  The University of Minnesota prepared an Economic Impact Study for the Civic Center.  The study showed an annual economic impact of $3.4 million, supporting 38 full and part-time jobs, and creates $1.6 million in value added to the region. 
CLICK HERE for study

Who uses the Civic Center?  Over 60% are non-City residents.

Who would pay the 1% local sales and use tax?  The University of Minnesota has estimated that between 50% and 55% of the tax would be paid by non-City of Grand Rapids residents.  This number correlates well with the number of non-residents who use the Civic Center. 
CLICK HERE for letter

Can the City choose to do nothing?  Yes.  But an unplanned roof failure will close the facility for over two years resulting in the loss of significant economic benefits to the region.