For those not aware, Fogerty Arena has a restaurant to offset the non-profit organization’s costs of operating the hockey and curling rinks.
Fogerty Arena management wants people to know there is a place to eat beyond the typical concession stand, but the challenge is lack of visibility from any major nearby roads.
At council workshops Aug. 8 and Nov. 7, Fogerty Arena management asked the Blaine City Council to allow for the restaurant to get a space on a brown directional sign in the city’s right of way along Clover Leaf Parkway that now includes Fogerty Arena and the Four Seasons Curling Club.
City Manager Clark Arneson told the council that this could lead to more restaurants and businesses in less visible locations to request directional signs in the city’s right of way, which is currently not allowed.
Mark Clasen, who has since retired and was replaced by longtime Fogerty Arena assistant manager Rob Hall, said back in August that their situation is a lot different than the typical restaurant because Gabe’s Rinkside Bar and Grill is supplementing a non-profit. Fogerty Arena.
“The restaurant equipment, everything in there is owned by us,” Hall said. “We’re not in the restaurant business. We’re hockey and curling. We went to the people at Gabe’s to run this facility.”
Councilmember Kathy Kolb could see businesses not as visible from Highway 65 or Radisson Road asking for directional signs.
Even when Gabe’s management and a few councilmembers suggested only allowing something like Rinkside Grill to be on existing signs rather than having the well-known Gabe’s name included, she said “try to think about describing that nuance to another bar and restaurant owner. It’s a tough one to sell.”
Councilmembers Russ Herbst and Wes Hovland can see a need for the directional signs since the business, as Herbst put it “are locked back in the woods.”
Councilmember Dick Swanson said Fogerty Arena knew that when it proposed the restaurant.
“I know they knew that Dick, but I’m looking at a way to help them out here a little bit if we could do it without opening up a can of worms,” Herbst said.
Motorists are used to seeing restaurants, gas stations and hotels on blue signs along freeways and state highways. The Minnesota Department of Transportation charges $660 a year in each direction for a sign on the main road and on the off-ramp, or $1,320 if it wants a sign in each direction. Priority is based on meeting a number of different criteria, but a significant tie-breaker is distance from the exit, according to MnDOT’s website.
Hall said MnDOT tentatively approved a westbound Highway 10 blue sign and off-ramp sign for Gabe’s Rinkside, but it would have required removal of a nearby brown directional sign on Highway 65 that tells people how to get to Fogerty Arena and the curling rink, which Hall said they fought hard to get in the first place.
Herbst said the fact that the arena and curling rink need a directional sign off Highway 65 shows that the facility is not as visible and the city could put some type of requirement that some type of directional sign would have to be approved by MnDOT before the city could approve inclusion of a restaurant on a directional sign within its own right of way.
“Somebody who is easily visible is not going to qualify for that type of sign,” Hovland said.
Mayor Tom Ryan said other businesses besides restaurants may ask for directional signs in the city’s right of way if the council approved this request.
According to Arneson, the council could amend its existing sign ordinance or make a policy decision to allow inclusion of the restaurant on the Clover Leaf Parkway brown directional sign, but he recommended to the council during the Nov. 7 workshop meeting that it not modify its sign ordinance.
“This is really a policy decision and I don’t know where we’d run into it again,” Arneson said. “I’d recommend if you’re going to do it, tell me it’s policy and we’ll do it, but you should also make a statement on why you’re doing it.”
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org