by Dennis Dalman
A former plan to secure a loan with the city’s help to build a sports complex in Sartell has been abandoned, and the funds to build it have been secured by the Sartell Youth Hockey Association via private financing with city involvement, according to Sartell City Administrator Anna Gruber.
Even though the City Council voted 4-1 several months ago to approve the city-private loan application (known as the “conduit” method) concerns had been raised by some that a financial agreement with the city’s help could perhaps make the city and taxpayers financially liable if the $5-million loan went into default.
Meantime, at the Sept. 14 Sartell City Council meeting, the five council members voted unanimously to approve an amended lease agreement with the Sartell Youth Recreation Association for the expanded hockey/athletic complex. The original lease was signed by the city and the SYRA in 2003 when the Bernick’s Hockey Arena was built.
The terms of the lease specify the city of Sartell will provide a substantial amount of funds for the expansion project – an enclosed extra arena to the south of the current one that can be used for hockey, plus other sports, and a variety of private and civic events during the nonhockey seasons. The expanded project, estimated to cost about $6 million, will be known as the Scheels Sports Complex after a major donor.
Ground was broken for the project about two weeks ago just south of the Bernick’s Arena in Pinecone Regional Park. Preparations for construction are underway.
In June, the City Council agreed to help fund the private-public partnership project for nearly $1.5 million in the following ways: $450,000 of up-front regional half-cent sales-tax revenue and about $482,000 total during a 10-year period from leasing funds the city charges for land used by a private golf course. The city will also waive the following: $62,000 in building permit fees, $205,000 in sewer and water access charges; $11,000 annually in utility bills; an estimated $72,000 in costs of city demolition of the expansion site (including an outdoor ice arena and warming house); and dirt-and-utility installation work, about $72,000.
Many private fundraisers have raised several millions of dollars in cash and long-term pledges for the athletic complex.