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Long-awaited ice arena may get state funding

NOV. 16, 2009

City of Cokato agrees to apply for a grant on behalf of arena board

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

DASSEL-COKATO, MN – The Dassel-Cokato Regional Ice and Sports Center Board is one step closer to making its 11-year-old dream become reality.

At Monday’s Cokato City Council meeting, the council agreed to be the applicant and recipient of a $1.26 million state bonding grant if it were to be awarded during the winter legislative session.

To apply for a bonding grant, a government entity was needed, though it was made clear the city would have no financial obligations to the constructing of an ice arena.

Representing the Dassel-Cokato Regional Ice and Sports Center Board of Directors at the meeting were Keith Raisanen, chairman and Steve Benda, director, who gave a presentation and update of the project’s progression.

After several potential locations changed throughout the years, the ice arena board is currently working with the Dassel-Cokato School District and is awaiting school board approval to build on school property.

“That is a real critical piece,” Raisanen said, adding the school board’s consideration is what resurrected the whole project, giving it new life.

Having the ice arena on school property has always been their first choice, according to Raisanen, commenting the school board is just being careful, which he also appreciates of the elected officials.

Supt. Jeff Powers anticipates the board possibly making a decision at its December meeting. If approved, the center will be located to the north of the Performing Arts Center.

It was noted at the meeting that the arena does not interfere with any of the school district’s long-range facilities plans.

The Dassel-Cokato Regional Ice and Sports Center will be responsible for the construction and ongoing maintenance of the facility, along with other financial liabilities that come with it.

The total estimated cost of the project is $2,391,000 for a 135-foot by 275-foot (37,125 square feet) shell that could be constructed as early as this spring, according to Raisanen.

The total funds on hand are $743,000 cash, $200,000 donated land value, and $187,000 in-kind commitments.

It was noted the school would continue to own the land, and would be leased by the ice arena board for a nominal yearly fee.

The $1.26 million grant would complete the arena project.

If the grant money is not obtained, the ice arena would be constructed in phases with an aggressive fundraising effort, with the goal of having a debt-free project.

During the meeting, Cokato City Council Member Butch Amundsen questioned whether this project would be subject to the Bacon-Davis Act for prevailing wages since the grant is in the city’s name.

Raisanen is working to get that clarified, but said the board is comfortable it would have adequate funds if that were a requirement.

“Being halfway there with our funding campaign and getting awesome support from our local legislators Steve Dille and Dean Urdahl, I honestly believe we are picking up a strong momentum,” Benda said.

Rep. Urdahl is unsure of where this project with sit as far as priority since it’s a smaller bonding bill this year.

“We’ll just have to see how big the bill is and what the priorities are,” Urdahl said.

The Dassel-Cokato Regional Ice and Sports Center board members visited many ice arenas around the state and found the Waseca Community Arena was a perfect example to model its building after, according to Raisanen. That, too, sits on school property and operates separately and self-sufficiently.

Raisanen spoke about the many benefits the ice arena would bring to the community.

The primary asset would be to have a facility to build programs for youth including organized hockey, Raisanen said.

The center would also benefit the physical education and athletic programs within the district.

It was also noted during the meeting, that this center would have regional significance, drawing from surrounding communities such as Annandale and Howard Lake.

It would also provide recreational opportunities for all ages of the community from amateur hockey to senior citizen open skating.

The facility could also be used at low cost for community events such as craft fairs or reunions, Raisanen explained.

One of the biggest assets for the community would be the economic development it would bring during the construction by drawing local tradesmen, and throughout its operation by bringing people into town, Raisanen explained.

“It’s economic development in its truest sense of the word,” he said.


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