After much debate East Bethel chooses rink manager

On a 3-2 vote at its May 21 meeting, the East Bethel city council chose Gibson Management to operate its ice arena for the next year, wrapping up several weeks of discussion about who will be responsible for the profitable operation of the arena without any taxpayer subsidy.

Three bidders had submitted a proposal and when one withdrew, it left Gibson and Rink Management Services Corporation. Mayor Bob DeRoche and Councilmembers Tim Harrington and Tom Ronning supported the contract with Gibson; Councilmembers Ron Koller and Heidi Moegerle were opposed.

Moegerle said, “We have had many years of seeing what Gibson can do.”

She said some people don’t feel the company takes the city’s concern seriously since there haven’t been significant changes and the arena still operates at a loss. Ronning agreed that East Bethel has been disappointed in the past and seriously considered “getting out of the hockey business” and converting the building into something else.

Harrington asked if RMSC had been inside the arena or taken a tour. City Administrator Jack Davis said yes, its people had been inside but hadn’t asked for an inventory list.

Harrington said, “At least with Gibson, we know what we’ve got.”

Most members were concerned about the winning bidder not seeing or realizing some detail that could hinder their ability to fulfill the contract. A representative of RMSC said the company understands there is not money for improvements to the arena.

Davis said the St. Francis Hockey Association would be a part of the new management committee that will be focused on profitable operation of the arena. The general strategy includes reducing costs and increasing revenue.