by Dennis Dalman
The Sartell Youth Recreation Center has requested $130,000 annually for 20 years from the city of Sartell toward the cost of the proposed expansion of the Bernick’s Ice Arena.
The request was made during the May 11 City Council meeting by Chad Ritter, president of the Sartell Youth Recreation Center (SYRC). Ritter gave a detailed update of the expansion project.
There were two other requests to the city mentioned by Ritter – to approve the option of a fabric roof on the new structure and to extend the land-lease on that property until 2041. As of now, the lease agreement is set to expire in 2033, Ritter noted.
The council members told Ritter they will have answers to all three requests in the near future.
If the council accedes to those three requests, it would help make the ongoing private fundraising campaign go better, said Ritter. The SYRC has raised through private donations $3,012,000 so far from 15 major donors, which is 58 percent of the estimated $5.2-million cost of the project. Two major donors are Scheels Sporting Goods and Regional Diagnostic Radiology. Scheels will have naming right for the new building, which will be known as the Scheels Athletic Complex. Raising funds has been more difficult in recent months due to the insecurities raised by the Covid-19 virus crises, Ritter noted.
The campaign is currently in the Major Gift phase, with a Community Gift Phase to start soon and extend to early fall. The SYRC is hoping to begin the project in autumn of this year, with a completion date in 2021.
If all funding can be secured soon, about $700,000 in interest costs could be saved, Ritter said.
The expansion project has changed since its inception about four years ago. Originally, the new building to the south of the current Bernick’s Arena was to be a structure with open sides. The new plan, which will cost the same, will be an enclosed steel-frame complex with a fabric roof. It would have a year-round use – an ice sheet for skating and hockey and indoor turf matting for virtually any kind of sport or other functions. The school district, Ritter noted, is excited about the prospect of leasing options at the complex for the girls’ and boys’ hockey programs and for other school-related uses.
The size of the indoor turf will be 200 feet by 80 feet.
A city-private partnership at the complex site is nothing new. Sixteen years ago, the city used some of its regional half-cent sales tax revenue to help build the Bernick’s Ice Arena, along with fundraising by the SYRC Association. Thousands of hours of volunteer work made the arena feasible. The arena has proven to be successful not just for hockey and skating but as a venue for a variety of nonsporting events.
Sartell Mayor Ryan Fitzthum, who is a member of the hockey board, told Ritter he is aware of how “a ton of energy and support” has gone into efforts to get the complex built. He said the council will have answers to Ritter’s three requests as soon as possible after consulting with city staff.