Canadian expects groundbreaking to begin by September

Under a leaky tent in a knapweed field, business developer Fred Harbinson, told a crowd he will build their dream.

If all goes according to plan, he said Tuesday, Missoula's Industrial Park will have an indoor, 56,000-square-foot skating arena and hockey rink by next winter.

About 40 people shivered with excitement as they heard the Canadian businessman's plan and reviewed his blueprints.

Representatives from Missoula's youth hockey league and other ice skating enthusiasts turned out for Harbinson's announcement, which was held at the proposed building site on DeSmet Road near the airport.

Harbinson and his partner, however, have yet to purchase the ground - 11 acres - or put earnest money down. "We are just getting our feasibility study completed and we are not yet eligible for financing," he said.

Mike Hansen, real-estate agent for the proposed deal, said the property is selling for about $43,000 an acre. The land, which is owned by Johnson Brothers Contracting, has been on the market for almost a year, he said.

Harbinson said he is in the process of price negotiations for the land and does not envision insurmountable problems to secure the needed $3 million to $4 million to build the arena. He has built about 20 other facilities in the Calgary area. He expects to purchase the land in a few days.

Once the financing is in place, Harbinson said he expects groundbreaking for the project to begin by September. The arena will be a three-floor structure that includes the ice rink and dressing rooms on the first floor. The second floor will be general seating for about 3,000 spectators and the third level will include box seating and a VIP area.

Harbinson said he and his partners are building the arena in order to bring an American West Hockey League team to Missoula. His father, Fred Harbinson Sr., is the key figure in the Canadian investment group the bought the Missoula franchise rights from the AWHL.

Harbinson plans to coach and manage the Missoula team for the 2001-2002 season. He currently coaches the Fernie (British Columbia) Ghostriders.

"I think people in Missoula need another outlet for recreation," he said to the approving crowd. "We do have a hockey franchise here and we feel Missoula needs a hockey team."

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