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Columbia Arena, Mighty Ducks Movie Site, Has an Undignified Last Chapter

Henry snuck into the old rink of movie fame to snap this photo of its sad state.

Henry snuck into the old rink of movie fame to snap this photo of its sad state.

Robbinsdale photographer Robert Henry gravitates toward shots of the decrepit. Old homes with their abandoned artifacts and personal histories produce the biggest daggers to the heart.

Sometimes a hockey rink can produce pangs as well. Such was the case last Saturday.

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An acquaintance told Henry that he should check out Columbia Arena on University Avenue NE in Fridley, the now-shuttered facility once used as the home rink for the 1996 movie D3: The Mighty Ducks, the third installment in the Mighty Ducks series.

Henry got spooked on his first trespassing attempt for an inside look. Police were rumored to hang out nearby and his nerves got the best of him.

But last Saturday, Henry made his way into the arena that's been shut down for about a decade.

Grafitti found inside the arena

Grafitti found inside the arena

"I wouldn't say it was sad like when I see an abandoned house," Henry says. "What struck me was it was unrecognizable. Here's a piece of property with a film history and you go inside to realize it's completely gutted. But I guess that kind of decay gives people like me the opportunity for rediscovery."

Making his way through the once-famous barn, Henry noted bathroom doors ripped from their hinges, walls "crazy covered" in graffiti, and sand where once was a frozen sheet of ice.

"I think that's what most struck me, the sand," he says. "I would have never realized sand was underneath the ice."

Columbia Arena was built in 1969. It fell into disrepair not long after parts of the third Mighty Ducks movie was shot there. Private-sector development plans never materialized, prompting the city of Fridley to purchase the 14-acre site last fall for $2.6 million.

What will be replace the arena remains uncertain. City officials took feedback from residents during four public meetings earlier this year.

One consideration has been melding the location with adjacent city-owned parcels to create a complex that includes a civic center and recreational space.

One thing is certain: Columbia Arena will be razed sometime this summer.

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