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Monday, May 15, 2006
U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame relocating from Eveleth

Associated Press

EVELETH, Minn. -- The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, a shrine for stars from all levels of American hockey and a mainstay in this Iron Range town for three decades, has closed its doors.

Officials have said the hall could be moved to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul or the Mall of America in Bloomington, though no decision has been made. The hall's closure was announced Friday.

"I think it's really sad," said Eveleth resident Laurie Cundy, whose sons, Michael and Brodie, played hockey for Eveleth High School. "I think Minneapolis-St. Paul has always wanted it, and it belongs here. This is the heart of hockey."

Many college, Olympic and pro hockey greats have come from Eveleth, including John Mayasich, Willard Ikola and John Mariucci. A giant hockey stick stands downtown. Police cars display the Hall of Fame logo.

The museum has struggled financially since opening in 1972. It costs about $11,000 per month to keep it operating, said executive director Tom Sersha. Sitting along U.S. Highway 53, the hall attracts about 10,000 visitors per year, but it would take about 30,000 visitors each year to keep the museum afloat, officials said.

A decision on whether the hall will be moved to another city has yet to be made, Sersha said.

"As far as I know, there's no definite location where we are saying, 'That's where we're going,'" he said. "I just hope that whatever change is made, that it stays in Minnesota. Minnesota truly has the hockey history behind it."

Talk of relocating the Hall of Fame -- or at least portions of it -- has for years centered on potential sites in the Twin Cities. The two most-cited locations are the Xcel Energy Center and the Mall of America.

Jerry Pfremmer of Gilbert, a member of the hall's board of directors, said moving from Eveleth could create a "furor" in the town. But since the museum continues to struggle, a move might be for the best, he said.

"Our mission is to do what's in the best interest of our enshrinees," he said. "But the cost of doing that in Eveleth has just gotten to the point where we can't do it. You can't earn your money off a Web site selling trinkets out of your gift shop. It hurts to say it, but it can't be about what's best for Eveleth and the Range. It has to be what's best for the enshrinees."

At least one public official hasn't given up on the hall.

State Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, has been seeking a solution that would keep the hall open.

"There will never be another community in the state that has contributed to hockey like Eveleth, and I think the state owes that community some money," he said. "We subsidize many sports in this state, including the Wild, Timberwolves, Vikings and Twins. And I think the state of Minnesota owes it to the community to help."