In a true testament to “be careful what you wish for,” the St. Michael City Council has set a number for those involved with the St. Michael-Albertville Youth Hockey Association as they begin fundraising for a second sheet of ice at STMA Arena.
The council voted in an ad-hoc motion Tuesday to request the association raise $1 million before the city commits to contributing toward the ice arena expansion.
Mayor Jerry Zachman initially proposed a target of $700,000, which would get the project off the ground and through the first four years of payments. But Kevin Kasel and Cindy Weston both pointed to the $1 million figure, which would get St. Michael though a tough stretch looming in 2014, when major bond payments are due on the downtown redevelopment project and the Highway 241 renovation.
“If we can get over that hump, we’re in much better shape,” Weston said.
The city wasn’t obligated to set a figure, but the hockey association had requested a fundraising target several times, Zachman said. Scott Berning of the hockey association has told both St. Michael and Albertville councils that he would like the association to set a $500,000 goal in order to get the project rolling.
Architects working with the hockey board and the association have come up with a pair of plans. The first is a $3.3 million expansion, which includes a standard high school sheet and storage area. The second is a nearly $5 million project which turns the current primary sheet into a practice area and makes the new sheet the main arena, complete with seating and common areas.
Either option would require special bonding from the two cities. The St. Michael-Albertville School District has also been asked to contribute to the project, but isn’t promising anything now. The district will be turning to voters next year to renew its own 10-year operating levy.
Discussion Tuesday night was bogged down when council member Joe Marx said he was not in favor of setting any sort of figure at this time. He said with the economy seemingly “stuck,” and the impact of any additional taxes possibly hitting local businesses hard, he couldn’t see moving forward with any sort of project at this time.
“We know what they want, and not many of us would argue with the need,” Marx said. “But I’m not comfortable putting anything out there right now. Until we’ve seen something come in – some sort of new development that gives us more of a base than what we have right now – I don’t think we can continue to burden our existing tax base.”
But Zachman wouldn’t take that for an answer.
“They’ve been asking us for quite a while to set some sort of a target. We need to get them a number,” he said.
“Our priorities right now should be elsewhere,” Marx responded. “Look at fuel prices. What impact is that going to have on [Public Works Director] Steve’s [Bot} budget?”
But, Zachman said, if the hockey association could pull off a major fundraising campaign, that would put the two cities in much better position to support the expansion.
Nadine Schoen, the council’s newest member, tried to find some middle ground, asking if a $700,000 mark would cover it. In the end, Zachman, Weston and Kasel supported a $1 million mark.
Representatives from the council – including Zachman – will discuss that figure with the rest of the hockey board when it meets in May.