The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 27, 2012

Rink manager says arena is overflowing with users

By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — With youth and adult hockey teams forced to play and practice as late as 1 a.m., the need for more ice sheets in the Mankato area is obvious, said All Seasons Arena manager Paul Ostoff.

“We’re renting ice 11 months out of the year,” Ostoff said, noting there are more than 40 youth, high school and adult hockey teams, not to mention the figure skating club and recreational skaters.

“If you had (only) two baseball fields in town for all the teams, what would happen?” Ostoff asked Blue Earth County commissioners as he made the presentation at their work session Tuesday.

The Mankato Area Hockey Association has pledged $125,000 up front and a minimum of $750,000 raised through a community campaign to help build a proposed $3 million ice arena, possibly near Caswell Park in North Mankato.

The local governments that own and operate All Seasons Arena would provide the rest of the construction costs with revenue generated by the arena covering all operational costs and possibly generating extra income.

All Seasons is owned by Mankato, Mankato Area Public Schools, North Mankato, Blue Earth County and Skyline. Each of the entities pays an annual amount, based on population, to pay off debt on All Seasons.

If a new ice arena were built, each government would make the following added annual payment to cover its construction costs: Mankato $102,000, North Mankato $34,300, Blue Earth County $20,100, Skyline $1,100 and the Mankato School District $96,500.

Ostoff presented a projected operating budget for a new facility that he called very conservative in its revenue estimates, showing operations would be easily paid for by revenues coming in.

“By being conservative, we’re not going to have any surprises,” said Ostoff, who suggested revenues could actually be twice as high as he projects. “There’s revenue out there we’re not getting because of use demand.”

All Seasons Arena — originally called the Ice Palace — was built near MSU by a private developer in the 1970s, but he walked away from it after losing money. In 1979 the local governments agreed to take over ownership.

While no commissioners voiced any opposition to the new ice arena idea, Commissioner Kip Bruender said he was troubled that Nicollet County hasn’t been involved. Nicollet County was an original partner in funding All Seasons Arena but later dropped out, saying that most of county residents who use the arena are from North Mankato and North Mankato was already providing financial support.

“I’d really like to see Nicollet County at the table if we’re building a facility in Nicollet County,” Bruender said.

Ostoff said he was in the process of approaching Nicollet County to try and gain support for a new ice arena.

While a North Mankato site was the initial focus for a new arena, discussion at the County Board meeting switched to talk of a regional sports complex, possibly tied to a new county fairgrounds in Blue Earth County.