Entire Norilsk chose name for sports palace

Entire Norilsk chose name for sports palace

April 17, 2024

The Arctica sports palace is a landmark that Norilsk residents once boasted to city guests.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The first real ice arena in the region was shown to foreigners, stages of the national hockey championship were held there, and the best figure skaters performed on the Norilsk ice.

Back in 1964, the Norilsk combine director Vladimir Dolgih instructed the Norilsk design office to develop a sports pavilion. The project included only a hockey field with stands for 1400 seats, locker rooms and a buffet. But two years later, the USSR Council of Ministers set a different goal: to expand the project to a large sports complex: “a grandiose sports complex, the northernmost in the world”.

Two sites were considered for construction: on 50 Let Octyabrya street and in the area of lake Dolgoye. The first option was not suitable because of the thermal power plant situated there: at that time, it ran on coal and belonged to the first class of hazards. Therefore, construction began behind the swimming pool building. The project was standard, and Norilsk architects adapted it to polar conditions. One of them, Mikhail Bitadze, was, by the way, a well-known athlete in the city, the founder of the gymnastics section.

According to the project, the sports palace was to consist of two buildings. The first was a showroom with a hockey rink and stands that could accommodate twice as many spectators as in the initial version. The project involved transforming the ice arena for concerts and performances by laying wooden panels on it. The second building included an arena, halls for gymnastics, wrestling and weightlifting. Young people and even schoolchildren were eager to build a new sports palace, considering this the only opportunity in the future to get to ice training. The builders were also in a hurry: the task was to be in time for the important anniversary date.

The first hockey match in the Arctica – at that time still nameless and addressless sports palace – was held on April 22, 1970. The new ice arena was a gift for Lenin’s centenary. Norilsk residents themselves came up with a name for the new sports facility. The city newspaper even announced a competition, to which several hundred variants were sent: Anniversary, Star, Fairytale, Polar Star, Iceberg, Gagarin, Bogatyr… They settled on Arctica – short and tested more than once in the Arctic. Meanwhile, the indoor skating rink was still being completed: the arena walls were covered with experimental varnish slabs, seats for spectators were installed, and an electronic scoreboard was installed. In February 1971, the ice arena was supposed to host the USSR Class B hockey championship in the Far Eastern zone. Guests were expected from Magadan, Chita, Vanino.

With the opening of the Arctica sports palace with artificial ice, perhaps the most important revolution in the development of Norilsk hockey took place. In 1971, a hockey department was opened at the children’s and youth sports school, headed by Mikhail Merkulov and Vladimir Volokitin, graduates of physical education universities invited to the city. Hockey became one of the most popular and beloved sports, but not everyone was able to get to training.

The swimming pool is on the left, the arena is on the right, the Sport hotel will be built between them

The Arctica’s second stage, the arena, was completed only in January 1975. The two buildings were connected by a transition gallery with auxiliary rooms. Another passage building connected Arctica with the swimming pool, and there was also a small Sport hotel for visiting teams. And there were a lot of them: in 1972, Norilsk residents applauded to the demonstration performances of the country’s best figure skaters – Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov. In 1982, Norilsk hosted competitions for the V USSR Peoples’ Winter Spartakiad: 16 junior hockey teams and the same number of youth teams met on the Arctica’s ice. To host those games, the hockey arena had to be rebuilt: its curvature radius, as it turned out, did not comply with the new rules of the International Hockey Federation. Well, the most famous guests were, probably, the prime minister of the country – the founder of hockey – Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his wife Margaret.

In the History Spot’s previous publication, we told about the first indoor swimming pool in the world’s Arctic – the Norilsk swimming pool.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Norilsk residents and Nornickel Polar Branch’s archives, Nikolay Shchipko and Alexander Haritonov

April 17, 2024

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