East Bethel council looks at ice arena budget

City Administrator Jack Davis said during East Bethel City Council’s July 23 budget workshop that the East Bethel Ice Arena is projected to bring in about $250,000 in revenue and have expenditures of $191,000.

The East Bethel City Council discussed operations at the ice arena during a budget workshop in late July. One change is that the current management company will be in charge of the concession stand. File photo by Eric Hagen

The East Bethel City Council discussed operations at the ice arena during a budget workshop in late July. One change is that the current management company will be in charge of the concession stand. File photo by Eric Hagen

With depreciation expenses of $82,361, the arena is expected to have an income loss of $22,861 according to the preliminary 2013 budget that the council approved Sept. 5.

The city is still making debt payments on the building but hopes to pay it off in three to four years. However, maintaining the building is expensive. There will ultimately need to be a new HVAC unit, Davis said.

Finance Director Rita Pierce told ABC Newspapers that the cash deficit in the city’s ice arena budget as of Dec. 31, 2011 was $134,834. The deficit was $192,134 at the end of 2010.

Gibson Management has overseen the day-to-day operations at the arena since the summer of 2008 and will now be taking over the concession stand.

Davis said the city would still own the refrigerator, microwave and stove, but Gibson Management would lease the use of this equipment for $500 a month. These funds could be used to cover future concession equipment costs for which the city would be responsible.

According to Davis, the positive aspect of Gibson Management taking over the concession stand is that this private company will assume all risks with regards to operational costs.

Pierce said that the concession stand had losses of $3,072.31 during the 2009-2010 season, $4,924.22 during the 2010-2011 season and $9,564.47 during the 2011-2012 season.

Davis said St. Francis High School and St. Francis Youth Hockey Association constitute about 80 percent of the rental time. The city charges $185 per hour for peak hours and $140 per hour for off-peak hours.

The challenge is the city does not get many renters during the warmer months because the building does not have air conditioning. The city has not been interested in air conditioning the building because it would be hard to recoup the costs, according to Pierce.

The council asked if the city could rent ice time for skating. Currently the city only does this on New Year’s Eve and on the last day of the season at the end of February, Davis said.

Pierce said the city does not have ice skates at the facility because it does not have open skating rentals, so this would limit the number of skaters. The cost for staff and utilities, including paying a Zamboni driver, does not justify more open skating time, she said.

Davis said this year there were some gun shows, a pet clinic, a couple of Lions club garage sales and the East Bethel Royalty Pageant on Booster Days to list a few examples.

Pierce said there used to be more craft shows, but other facilities such as the National Sports Center in Blaine have these shows at similar times of the year, so it makes it difficult to attract vendors to East Bethel’s Ice Arena, especially with there being no air conditioning.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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