The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 22, 2013

Nicollet Co. asked to support ice arena

By Mark Fischenich mfischenich@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — MANKATO — Nicollet County commissioners were asked Tuesday to consider chipping in for a study on the feasibility of adding more indoor ice sheets and possibly a broader sports complex in Mankato or North Mankato.

“We’d like to have Nicollet County look at it and say, ‘Yeah, it’s going to help our kids,” said Vance Stuehrenberg, a Blue Earth County commissioner and member of the All Seasons Arena board of directors, during a joint meeting of the two county boards.

Nicollet County was an early member of the All Seasons organization decades ago when local governments came together to operate and eventually expand the ice arena just east of the Minnesota State University campus. The arena hosts MSU hockey practices and women’s games, high school and youth hockey, figure skating, adult league hockey and open skating.

Nicollet County, which includes North Mankato, later dropped out of the All Seasons organization, relying on North Mankato to support the facility. But Stuehrenberg said the facility is well used by other Nicollet County residents as well.

“I’ve seen the numbers showing the amount of kids from Nicollet County that use it,” Stuehrenberg said. “Not just North Mankato but kids from Nicollet and kids from St. Peter.”

Even with a second sheet of ice added, All Seasons is now booked up from early morning until late at night during hockey season. With parking already tight and no vacant land nearby, expanding the existing arena would be problematic.

As a result, Mankato and North Mankato have been discussing the potential for constructing an additional facility and possibly a regional multi-sport complex. Blue Earth County has agreed to contribute up to $5,000 and North Mankato up to $8,000 for a market study of the idea, which is expected to cost $25,000 and would grow to about $40,000 if a detailed financial analysis also is ordered.

The contributions are based on the number of residents using All Seasons, Stuehrenberg said, and Nicollet County would be asked for roughly $2,000. Mankato, Mankato Area Public Schools and Skyline are other All Seasons partners and are expected to contribute.

Nicollet County Board Chairman Dave Haack said members of the North Mankato City Council also asked the board to consider backing the idea but gave no indication that he was supportive. Commissioner Bruce Beatty, who represents rural parts of Nicollet County, said more involvement in Mankato ice arena projects wasn’t well-received in previous informal conversations of the board and made only the most minimal commitment to Stuehrenberg’s request to reconsider.

“I’m sure we’ll probably have another discussion on it at some point,” Beatty said.