The Hippodrome, or the “Hipp,” where most of our young hockey players learn to skate, was constructed as the County Fair Exhibition Building in 1926. The building was originally 100 feet by 200 feet and was constructed by local contractor W.H. Jackson of steel and concrete block with pressed brick on its front and rear. It was opened and dedicated with a ceremony by the Ramsey County Agricultural Association on August 17, 1926, to be ready in time for the fair to be held August 26–28 of that year.
The construction of the hippodrome building and the nearby grandstand for the use of the fair was quite a community undertaking. It involved a county appropriation of $25,000, as well as the commitment of local merchants to get behind the fair and serve as committee chairs, exhibitors and promoters so people would attend.
By December 1926, the next phase of the dream for the new exhibition building was to become a reality. The ice rink in the building was opened in grand fashion with a scrimmage between White Bear and the American Hoist and Derrick Co. of St. Paul, followed by a community skate. The school band was even on hand to mark the occasion. The Bears won 4-1.
In early January, the White Bear “Independent” Team hosted their first official game, against the Hazel Park Merchants. The hope was to raise enough funds to purchase uniforms for the team. In addition to the league games, a regular schedule of public or open skating was established for the enjoyment of the community.
During the 1990s and in 2000, several renovations and upgrades were made to the building, including a Zamboni garage and improved changing areas for the players. Today, the tradition of open skating and youth hockey continue at the Hippodrome, as it eventually became known.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is one of a handful of community representatives sharing history monthly on this back page.