Blaine curling facility discussion gets things moving

by Tim Hennagir
Life Editor

Blaine City Council discussion about a proposed Fogerty Arena curling center has facility and Blaine city staff drawing a careful but quick bead on numerous project details.

City Manager Clark Arneson, Arena Manager Mark Clasen and Jim Kappelhoff, park and recreation director, recently answered follow-up questions about a breakthrough Jan. 5 workshop meeting that helped move the proposed recreational project forward.

Clasen was pleased with the meeting’s outcome.

“We knew in advance the meeting wasn’t going to be sugar-coated,” he said.

“The council had questions and concerns. After the workshop, I talked about with my board members about what happened and why. It was a stark difference from 10 years ago when we tried to get the North Rink built [at Fogerty],” he said.

According to Clasen, city leaders at that time didn’t offer any financial vehicles for help and threw up roadblocks every step of the way.

“This time around, we didn’t even have to ask for use of the city’s bonding authority for financing” he said. “It was offered in support. It’s a dramatically different scenario this time.”

Arneson said City Finance Director Joe Huss is continuing to gather information about using conduit debt bonds for the $3.2 million Fogerty curling project.

The idea is similar to assistance provided in 2006 to the Herb Brooks Foundation to complete a hockey training center at the Schwan Super Rink and 2011 approval of a National Sport Center (NSC) proposal to build a 29,000 square-foot indoor sports and exhibit hall next to the Schwan Center in Blaine.

“We have to determine if the entire curling proposal could be financed using these bonds,” Arneson said.

A curling user fee is still under negotiation, he said.

Arneson said the Fogerty Arena Board of Directors and Clasen need to come to the city as soon as possible with their architect and engineer and submit a project application and site plan.

“If we do the conduit bond financing, we’ll schedule a public hearing and ask the Blaine council to act on the bonds,” he said.

Kappelhoff’s key task in the coming weeks is notifying park users that Aquatore Field No. 1 will not be available this year.

“We are going to accommodate everything we can over there with the two fields that we have,” Kappelhoff said.

“We will adjust our limits on the number of adult softball teams that we register that play over there in co-rec, men’s and women’s leagues. We have discretion to limit the number of teams.”

According to Clasen, Arneson’s mention of a curling user fee wasn’t a surprise, because the city and the Fogerty Board have been open to innovation.

“We’ve been throwing around all sorts of ideas [for financing],” Clasen said.

“We’ve discussed a number of options. The really good thing about the direction the Jan. 5 workshop discussion took was that the council was willing to kick this concept down the road a little bit to help us get healthy financially, before we might be asked to participate in field relocation costs. Our board of directors has never assumed that we would not be asked to contribute to that.”

Clasen said his biggest challenge with the proposed curling center will be finding the best people possible to get involved with managing the club’s membership.

“In order for this club to be successful, the membership needs to be engaged and active,” he said. “We are going to need experienced people with curling and club organization skills.”

Clasen said anyone who is interested in membership management should call 763-780-3328 and leave him a message.

Tim Hennagir is at tim.hennagir@ecm-inc.com

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