Due primarily to the urging of members of the local curling club, who had visited Canada to enter bonspiels, a meeting was held in Eveleth March 2, 1916 to discuss the erecting of an indoor sports building to house curling sheets and a skating rink. The location of the structure, most prominently mentioned, was the corner of Garfield and Adams streets. Groups present at the meeting were the school board, the curling club, and the city administration. World War I interfered with immediate plans to erect the building and it was not finished until 1919. The building, which featured a curling rink on the first floor, and a skating rink on the second floor, cost $125,000, a large sum of money for the time. The rink opened for use January 17, 1919. It was the first modern recreation building built on the Mesabi Range. Opening of the recreation building vaulted Eveleth into big time hockey and within a few years the city of Eveleth was noted nationwide for its teams and the development of outstanding players.
Leonard Peterson and C.H. Hale were instrumental in launching the 1919-1920 Eveleth hockey team. The team played their first game in conjunction with the Winter Carnival in the new Eveleth Recreation Building on January 1, 1920, defeating Hibbing 5-2. Members of the team, many of whom were from Two Harbors and Duluth were as follows: Clark, Hedberg, Stein, Couture, Toppula, Sullivan, Le Fleur, Bastien, and Seaborn. Seaborn was from Canada, and was the first of many Canadians that Eveleth was the import the next six seasons. Playing an independent schedule the team finished the season of 1920 with 18 wins, 5 losses and 1 tie. Teams met included St. Paul, Hibbing, Duluth, Calumet, Rainy River, Virginia, and Winnipeg. Pathe News, a national news service, showed films of the hockey team and Winter Carnival in conjunction with the opening of the Recreation building on January 1.
During the season of 1920-1921 interest in the Eveleth Reds team skyrocketed in the east end of the Mesabi Range. An estimated crowd of 1,000 stood outdoors in the cold at the local Western Union office awaiting details of the Eveleth-Cleveland playoff games being played in Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. In as much as the Eveleth rink did not possess artificial ice, late season games had to by played at the opponent's rink or at a neutral site. The interest created in the Reds led Mayor Essling to promote a second and larger building devoted entirely to hockey and skating. Essling, a native of St. Peter and a lawyer, was a first-rate promoter and developer. The new building, with an ice surface of 190' x 90' and a seating capacity of near 3,000, was built during the summer of 1921. Before the structure was completed a number of entangling lawsuits were filed which questioned the City of Eveleth's right to construct or operate the building. These issues became a "hot political potato" in the city. However, nothing came of the suits and the Hippodrome was opened January 1, 1922 before a full house as the locals defeated the Duluth Hornets 10-6. In January of 1932, it was announced in the range town that ice was being removed in the Rec Building, leaving only the formidable Hippodrome to host indoor hockey within Eveleth.
The Eveleth Recreation Building was the first of its kind on the Mesabi Range. Depending on the time of the year, it had roller skating and public dances, ice skating, hockey and curling. Right after World War II, it was remodeled and became an Arrow plant (a division of Cluett, Peabody and Co., Inc.) The local women employed manufactured Arrow men's underwear and shirts. Ironically, neighboring town Virginia, Minnesota and Virginias original ice arena - that too housed curling and hockey - became an Arrow shirts factory in 1947 within the Virginia Recreation Building. At a later date (1964) they also took over the City Auditorium and manufactured Arrow pajamas. In 1978, Arrow closed its operations on the Mesabi Range. The Recreational Building for a time was being used by FoamTech, making products for furniture. In 1980, the building was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Today the building in it's original condition is being used as an indoor storage facility to store boats, etc. during the frigid Iron Range winter months atop where curlers slip rocks on the lanes. In January of 2022, while in town for the Eveleth HIPP 100th Anniversary celebration, one of the partial owners of REc building nicknamed Goochie showed us around the old building and much to our surprise, the ORIGINAL dasher hockey boards STILL REMAIN in their original location on the west side wall of the upper level that show signs of hockey use. The wooden bleachers were long gone but a doorway where Eveleth Reds fans entered the hockey rink still remains boarded off. In addition, the upstairs locker rooms where players readied for battle, in addition to original smoking rooms and concession areas remain in their original format - albeit with no locker stalls in place any longer. The guided tour I received of the formidable Eveleth Rec Building was a flashback in time of Minnesota hockey history, and one that we will always remember (see interior images in below slideshow).