A Spring Lake Park bar owner’s request to conduct a combined boxing and mixed martial arts event didn’t make it off the mat at a recent council meeting.
Rich Povlitzki, co-owner of Povlitzki’s on 65, 8407 Plaza Blvd. N.E., was upset May 7 because the council opted not to discuss an ordinance amendment.
Last month, city leaders tabled the request to give City Administrator Barbara Nelson time to draft a code change that would allow only state-sanctioned events.
The Minnesota Combative Sports Commission has current regulatory authority over mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions held in venues around the state.
Matt Schowalter, Minnesota Combative Sports Commission operations manager, wrote the city regarding the Povlitzki’s request to hold the MMA event.
“We take every precaution possible to ensure that events are run smoothly, fighters are safe and the promoter puts on a good show,” Schowalter wrote the city.
In a April 4 letter to the city council, Brad Povlitzki stated that the proposed June 22-23 tent-based event was scheduled from 7 to 11:30 p.m. both nights.
“We will be providing ample security throughout the tent and at all exits and entrances,” he wrote, adding paramedics would be on duty, per state sanction.
Mayor Cindy Hansen said she couldn’t support an ordinance change.
Since Police Chief Doug Ebeltoft was not in attendance at Monday’s council meeting, Nelson read a memo summarizing his position regarding the request. Nelson said she spoke with Ebeltoft May 3 about other communities that prohibit MMA.
According to Nelson, Ebeltoft surveyed the communities around Spring Lake Park and majority of cities have an ordinance prohibiting ultimate fighting or MMA.
The only entities that do not prohibit ultimate fighting are Anoka, Coon Rapids, St. Francis, Centennial and Anoka County.
However, Nelson said Ebeltobft was informed by these communities they are considering adopting an ordinance prohibiting this activity.
Ebeltoft previously indicated he had no objection to the boxing portion of the proposed Pov’s event.
However, he would not recommend an ordinance change by the city council.
“He believes that [MMA] is an ‘aggressive and barbaric’ form of fighting and although popular, does not believe it is appropriate for small venues such as local bars where people will be confined in small, restricted areas,” Nelson said.
“Chief Ebeltoft added that he believes it is more appropriate in large venues where there is a significant security presence.”
Nelson told city council members no action would be required on the proposed ordinance change if they decided to retain a ban on ultimate fighting or MMA.
During discussion, Councilmember Bill Nash brought up sanctioning by the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission. “Sanctioning is designed to protect the fighters,” he said. “It doesn’t do anything for the actual security of the event, which is my concern.”
Councilmember Dale Dahl was concerned about attendees’ behavior.
“The only thing I was concerned about is if you give somebody five drinks, they think they are an ultimate fighter,” Dahl said.
After city councilmembers didn’t move the ordinance change for discussion, Nelson asked Povlitzki if he wanted to stay for the unfinished business portion of meeting and discuss boxing only.
“It would be futile,” Povlitzki said, referring to his remaining at the May 7 meeting to further discuss his request. “In order for this to work, we need both nights.”
Veidols Muiznieks, a commissioner with the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission, attended Monday night’s city council meeting on Povlitzki’s behalf.
“He [Muiznieks] has a completely different view, but he works for the commission,” Povlitzki told the council. “We were hoping that he would be able to speak.”
Councilmember Jeanne Mason replied, “We didn’t know that he wanted to speak.”
Hansen allowed Muiznieks to come to the podium and provide background.
“I understand where you are seated,” Muiznieks said. “I spent 12 years on the St. Paul Park City Council. I was a board member of the League of Minnesota Cities, of which you are a member.”
Muiznieks retired as police chief from the Newport Police Department two months shy of 35 years of service, he said.
“If this comes before you again, please understand there is regulation,” Muiznieks said.
“Effective July 1, the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission will come under the control of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Then, we may have more power to get into the field of regulating security aspects.”
Mason asked Muiznieks about the typical crowd that attends an MMA event.
“MMA is becoming well-recognized and a multi-million dollar operation worldwide,” he said.
“The professional ranks are getting younger combatants [to participate]. It’s a younger crowd, in their 20s to early 30s. Traditional boxing is an older crowd.”
After Muiznieks finished his background presentation, Mason asked if councilmembers wanted to revisit a code change.
There were no takers and discussion ended.
Tim Hennagir is at firstname.lastname@example.org