Rental rates increasing at Coon Rapids Ice Center

Rental fees for indoor ice at the Coon Rapids Ice Center will increase for the 2013-2014 season.

But the rates for the outdoor rink at the ice center will remain the same.

The Coon Rapids City Council approved the new rates and increases July 16, but not without some discussion and concern.

Under the new rate structure the hourly rates will be:

• Winter prime September-March for the public will increase $5 from $190 to $195.

• Winter prime September-March for the Coon Rapids Youth Hockey Association will also go up $5 from $175 to $180.

• Spring (April-May) will increase $5 from $140 to $145.

• Summer (June-August) will increase $10 an hour from $130 to $140.

• Outdoor ice for the public will stay at $75 an hour and for the Coon Rapids Youth Hockey Association at $60 an hour.

According to Tim Himmer, city public works director, the winter prime rate was increased $5 for all users a year ago, but spring and summer rates were not changed.

“For the 2013-2014 season, the additional $5 per hour during winter prime continues to position the ice center competitively with local hourly ice rates excepting association run arenas,” Himmer wrote in his report to the council.

“The additional $5 an hour during the spring positions the ice center with its main competitors of Andover and Fogerty.”

The same is true with the $10 an hour increase for the summer months, Himmer wrote in his report.

Before recommending the rate increase, Himmer told the council that a market study of surrounding arenas took place and showed a variety of results.

A majority of prime season ice fees are increasing by $5 an hour with the single exception of Fogerty, he wrote.

The rental increases are being recommended so that the rates remain competitive, especially in light of the new facility, and operational costs, particularly utilities, continue to increase, Himmer said.

In looking at the market study, Mayor Tim Howe said the Coon Rapids Ice Center would be at the high end of the middle, with Andover and Elk River a little less and Fogerty and Anoka a lot less.

The market rate study shows Brooklyn Park, Champlin and Schwan’s Super Rink charging more.

The cost of running the ice center is higher than it was at Cook and “utility costs keep adding up for us,” Himmer said.

According to Craig Scott, ice center manager, the rates charged at Cook were maintained the first year at the ice center.

“The new rates are in line with the market rates in the local area of non-association arenas,” Scott said.

“The association arenas have a different financial base than us.”

But Councilmember Bruce Sanders was concerned that rate increases at the ice center were becoming rote.

And before the council considers rates for the 2014-2015 season, Sanders said he wanted to see information that the increases are not resulting in a decrease in use of the ice center.

“I want to see if there is a direct correlation,” he said.

Howe, too, said information on the use of the ice center and the outdoor rink should be provided to the council to see if the rates are having an impact, he said.

Councilmember Ron Manning asked about the cost increases and if the city “had fallen behind paying the utilities,” he said.

According to Finance Director Sharon Legg, the utility cost increases at the new ice center have been “pretty significant” compared with Cook.

“It’s a bigger building than Cook and we have the outdoor refrigerated rink as well,” Legg said.

The last year at Cook, the city was breaking even from an operations standpoint, but it is now subsidizing operational costs at the ice center at $250,000 a year, she said.

“User fees help offset that cost,” Legg said.

The council also did another piece of ice center business July 16.

It approved repairs and modifications to the ice center’s heating and cooling systems totaling $9,758, with the money coming from the city’s general fund balance because the expense was not anticipated and included in the ice center’s 2013 budget.

According to Stephanie Lincoln, city purchasing clerk, two projects are involved.

One is draining, flushing and adding glycol (freeze and corrosion protection) to the boiler and heat pump system and the other is the installation of a cooling unit in the data closet adjacent to the ticket booth, Lincoln wrote in a report to the council.

Howe found it hard to understand why modifications were needed to the ice center’s heating and cooling system since it is less than two years old and wondered who was at fault, he said.

According to Himmer, the specifications for the heating and cooling system were lacking those elements.

And the city was working with the engineering consultant, construction management firm and the contractor on the issue.

“But we felt it was better to get the work done first, then argue about it,” he said.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]