I have been a Mankato resident and home owner for close to 30 years. For better than a third of those years, I’ve been a “hockey parent.” For pretty much the entirety of those years, we’ve been hearing discussions about rink improvements, rink expansions etc.
A while back we were given the opportunity to vote for the sales tax extension in the hopes of some of those improvements coming to fruition. Certainly, those tax dollars have so far funded some very nice improvements to the Frank (Franklin Rogers Park), which all Mankato residents should be proud of. They have also helped with improvements to the curling club. Other than that, what has the tax extension provided us?
For those of you who read the news articles and believe that hockey enthusiasts in Mankato are requesting too many “shiny new” rinks, or improvements to existing rinks, please come to All Seasons Arena on a Tuesday, Thursday or perhaps even a Saturday during the hockey season.
First, as you turn into the ASA, you’ll notice the driveway entrance. Please go slow on that so that you do not bottom out your vehicle. Our local bus companies refuse to even drive their buses into that entrance to avoid damaging their bus and trailers.
Next, step into the lobby. You’ll notice a ticket stand that resembles Lucy’s 5-cent psychiatrist stand on Charlie Brown. As you wind your way through the lobby, watch out for the young kids and their equipment bags as they sit and wait because their parents are stuck in the parking lot as others come into and leave practices and games.
Once you have your ticket, make your way up a set of steps and then all way down the arena. Then you can go back down another set of steps, across to the other side of the arena and back up more steps to sit down.
On the way, maybe you can ask one of the kids playing if all their family members come to watch them play. They’ll perhaps tell you no, and that their grandparents don’t like to come because of the trek that I described above in order to get to their seats, or the fact that they’ll have to find a spot to park when they come.
Once the game is over, exit the building and make your way back to your car. If you were lucky, your car is in the lot by the arena. If not, you are probably across Monks Avenue in the church parking lot (thank you, Bethel Baptist, for being great about that). Watch as the kids run across Monks dodging traffic in the dark to get to their cars also.
A while later, you’ll probably see some of the other local teams as they return from an away game. You’ll see the players, managers and coaches trudge through the snowbank on Briargate Road into the ASA parking lot because the bus won’t drive into the lot with an equipment trailer attached.
Folks, we are not asking for the world here. We simply want something that our community, players and families can be proud of. We want things that will cause our kids, families and professionals to perhaps think about staying in the community instead of going elsewhere.
The common response to the numerous proposals is “No.” Instead of always saying no, why not come to the table with what can be done? Instead of paying consultants to tell us why something that has been proposed won’t work, why not pay a consultant to tell us what will work?
Hockey families travel to other communities (and spend money in those communities) and see where these types of improvements have been made. Here are just a few examples:
New Ulm – population 13,237:
Marshall – population 13,530:
Waconia – population 12,369:
How can these communities have facilities like these and Mankato cannot? These communities do not have multiple universities with thousands of students and faculty. They don’t have a regional medical center with hundreds of employees and professionals.
Councilman Mike Laven believes that hockey families should fund or find funding to pay for the arena. That’s an interesting concept. I don’t ever ride on the huge city buses that traverse through the city (empty most of the time), yet I pay taxes to help fund them.
Perhaps the next time the roof on the library needs fixing we can charge those folks checking out books $10 or so to go to a roof fund?
My tenure as a “hockey parent” is coming to an end, and as I and other folks have said for many years, we’ll never see any of these improvements come through for our kids to be able to use them.
I am in favor of anything that can be done for the ice arena expansion/improvements and also the other proposed improvements for other sports and groups that have been part of the discussions so far.
I urge the community, the council, mayor and the city manager to please consider future generations and come up with a plan that will allow something to move forward.
Brian Salze is a software developer and lives in Mankato.