by Dennis Dalman
A city match of $100,000 for a Mighty Ducks application was unanimously approved by the Sartell City Council at its last meeting.
The grant request for the Bernick’s Arena is $200,000, which requires a one-to-one match. Bernick’s Arena operators are committed to providing $100,000 of the matching amount and requested the city provide $100,000, said Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni. All told, the grant with matching funds would total $400,000. The city’s share of the money would come from the park department fund via local-option half-cent sales-tax funds, Degiovanni noted.
“My guess is it (the Mighty Ducks grant process) will be extremely competitive,” Degiovanni told the council. The decisions as to which facilities will get the grant will be determined by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission.
In a memo to the council, Degiovanni outlined the history of the city’s involvement with the Bernick’s Arena. In 2003, the city approved $377,000 in property-tax abatement to help the $2.5-million arena get built. The city also used $250,00 in local-option half-cent sales-tax revenue for site improvements at the site in Pinecone Regional Park.
The construction of the arena was accomplished thanks to donations large and small and thousands of hours of voluntary labor and in-kind contributions, as well as a Mighty Ducks grant.
In the 10 years since it was built, Degiovanni noted, the city has not contributed any more money to the arena and its operations, other than routine site maintenance at the park. Operated by the Sartell Youth Hockey Association, the arena has been self-supporting and makes enough to cover its annual operating costs of about $250,000 annually.
The arena has become a site for a wide variety of events: hockey, pleasure ice-skating, soccer, lacrosse and gymnastics. It’s also used as a venue for events and charitable causes that include concerts, roller derbies and hobby shows.
The grant and matching funds would allow the arena’s operators to make several much-needed capital improvements, including refrigerant replacement, monitoring system and compressor drives; elevator; upgraded bleachers; air-quality improvement; additional locker rooms; and a water softener and related water-circulation system.
The Mighty Ducks grant program began in Minnesota in the early 1990s when the legislature began to understand the need for winter sports facilities for youth. At that time, hockey gained in popularity as a sport for both boys and girls. Since then, more than $18 million was granted to help cities build ice facilities, creating 61 sheets of new ice across the state.
This year, 2014, a new Mighty Ducks bill was introduced in the legislature to help cities and hockey associations replace expensive refrigeration systems for indoor arenas. That is because starting in 2020, the U.S. government will impose a ban on the importation of Freon, a common refrigerant, because of environmental concerns. Freon, a trade name of DuPont Chemical, can be used in gas or liquid form in refrigerants and for aerosol propellants. Freon contains chlorofluorocarbons, which are believed to cause ozone depletion and, thus, global warming.
photo from Winkelman Building Corp. website.
The Bernick’s Arena in Sartell, built 10 years ago, is operated by the Sartell Youth Hockey Association. Operators are hoping for a Mighty Ducks state grant to do capital improvements at the facility.