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Willmar Civic Center to get an audio upgrade

Curt Hogg / Tribune file photo The Willmar WarHawks host the Alexandria Blizzard at the Willmar Civic Center in this January file photo. A new sound system approved by the Willmar City Council should help fans of the junior hockey team follow the action, and the team has agreed to front the $45,000 cost of the system while the city decides from where to reallocate funds.

WILLMAR — Come this hockey season, when the Cardinals or Warhawks put a puck in the back of the visitors' net, the crowd of fans in the stands should have an easier time hearing who scored the goal.

The Willmar City Council on Monday approved the replacement of the old sound system in the Cardinal Arena at the Willmar Civic Center, for a cost of $45,320.

"Now is the time to do it," City Administrator Ike Holland said.

The new system, coming from Mid States Audio and Video, will include 28 loudspeakers, several dual subwoofers and announcer equipment. It will replace a system that is over 25 years old, made from a mixture of home theater speakers and one that no longer meets the needs of the Cardinal Arena, especially with the Willmar Warhawks playing there.

"I don't know who is being introduced, I just look at their jerseys because you can't hear it through the PA system. It is very much needed, it would add ambiance to the game," said Councilor Shawn Mueske, a self-proclaimed Warhawk fan.

The new sound system is not in the 2017 budget. One possibility for funding is reallocating funds from the canceled Swansson Field concession stand project and using them to replace the sound system. The Warhawks have also stepped up, saying they will front the cost of sound system, with the city paying them back in 2018.

"We can pay for it this year, or pay for it next year. The funds are there," Holland said.

The Warhawks, a Tier III hockey team from the Northern American 3 Hockey League, would also like to see some additional upgrades into the new system that will benefit their use. They would fund those additions themselves, but the equipment would be available for other users.

"This system alone is an upgrade that we think works for all the users of the facility and the Warhawks would add on to that to meet their needs," said Steve Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

City staff is also aware that the Blue Line Arena is in need of a new sound system, and they are working on it.

"Hopefully the budget will stay on target. We think there will be money to potentially deal with the Blue Line with our own budget," Brisendine said.

Councilor Fernando Alvarado also wants staff to speak with local businesses and organizations who use the facility, to see if any of them are interested in helping out.

"They want to be a part of this," Alvarado said

With the council's approval, the hope is to get the new system installed in time for the opening of the hockey season.

"We are about a month out, I'd like to see this move forward," Holland said.

The new system will allow for a better game experience, for not just the Warhawks, but others as well.

"I think it's exciting we have the Warhawks in town. And I think it is important we allow them to put on a entertaining program. I'm excited about this opportunity. I know there are a number of sports teams that use that facility and I'm sure they'd be excited to have a quality sound system also," Alvarado said.