MSU men's hockey review regional 2 (copy)

The Minnesota State Mavericks' victory over the University of Minnesota in the regional finals sent them to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh earlier this month.

Q: What is the extra financial benefit/expense incurred by MSU due to the hockey team making it to the NCAA hockey tournament and Frozen Four?

A: The goal is to have both sides of the ledger match, said Tim Marshall, associate director of athletics at Minnesota State University.

The Mavericks men’s hockey team was a No. 2 seed in this year’s national tournament, being sent to Loveland, Colorado, for the regional tournament. Following a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Quinnipiac in the first round and a thumping of the Golden Gophers in the regional finals, the Mavericks earned a trip to the Final Four — which is known as the Frozen Four in Division I college hockey — in Pittsburgh.

“Basically, the main financial objective of any team qualifying for any NCAA post-season competition is to break even,” Marshall said in a written response. “For the most part, teams travel as they would during the regular season, paying their travel expenses as they go (transportation, lodging, meals, etc).”

The NCAA then provides per diem payments after the fact to reimburse teams for their food and lodging expenses. The NCAA either pays for transportation directly or through reimbursements, both for air travel or ground transportation.

“So the bottom line is, by design any team competing in NCAA post-season competition, including the MSU men’s hockey team’s recent run to the Frozen Four, would not benefit or be burdened financially by participating in the event,” Marshall said.

While Marshall didn’t address any longer-term indirect financial benefits, Ask Us Guy is pretty confident the Mavericks’ post-season success will have a positive impact on the team’s future budgets. Although the team lost on a last-minute goal in their semifinal game against St. Cloud State, MSU fans and boosters were clearly elated by the earlier victories after the Mavericks had gone winless in previous trips to the NCAA tournament.

So it seems almost inevitable that the 2021-22 season will see a bump in ticket sales, assuming big crowds are allowed back in the arena by this fall. And the good times experienced by hockey boosters might leave them more motivated to make donations to the program.

Q: Here is my question. Why does the city of Mankato allow the train to sit on the tracks blocking traffic for hours? I am talking about the tracks that run by Third Avenue and Pine Street. If you happen to be on Third Avenue, you can illegally do a U-turn and find another route, but what about the people that live on Pine or the other side of tracks that don’t have another way out? I would think this would be a safety issue. What happens if a house caught fire? Or there is a medical emergency? There is no way to move a train. ... How are these people who live on the other side of the tracks on Pine supposed to get to appointments or work? What gives the railroad the right to just sit there?

Just wondering what the city is going to do about it.

A: The reader went on to cite instances where trains were parked across Pine Street for an hour or more.

Some of the reader’s questions were answered in an Ask Us column in August, when a different reader complained about trains lingering on roads in the area and getting no assistance when calling 911. Director of Public Safety Amy Vokal explained the problem. While Minnesota has a law limiting the time a train can block a public roadway to 10 minutes, that state law is superseded by a federal law that prohibits state and local governments from forcing a train to move simply because it is inconveniencing drivers.

But the current question also deals with potential situations where it’s more than an inconvenience. Vokal said the city’s firefighters have contemplated the possibility of a fire or other emergency in the Pine Street neighborhood, which is west of Third Avenue close to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

“This is something that we’ve considered for a long time,” she said of trains idling across a street like Pine. “And trains can also break down and get stuck in areas.”

With that worst-case scenario, where a disabled train can’t move even if the railroad wants it to, the firefighters have planned a multi-pronged approach.

“They do just a phenomenal job preplanning every scenario,” Vokal said.

The plan includes getting personnel and smaller vehicles to the emergency using a non-public access under the railroad tracks or accessing a nearby bike trail. If the emergency is a fire, one approach would be to contact the Union Pacific railyard to ensure the train will not suddenly start moving — and then threading fire hoses between the rail cars to the home that’s ablaze.

“We could work through the train,” Vokal said. “... It’s not ideal, but it’s workable.”

As for those alternate accesses, Vokal emphasized — basically speaking in capital letters — that they were NONPUBLIC emergency routes into the neighborhood and should not be used by people simply trying to get to and from the area when a train is blocking Pine Street.

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to mfischenich@mankatofreepress.com; put Ask Us in the subject line.

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