Two Brainerd area lawmakers are sponsoring companion bills that would provide $150,000 in funding for elevator at the Brainerd Area Civic Center.
Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, and Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, are sponsoring companion bills in their respective chambers that would authorize the sale and issuance of state bonds for an elevator.
On Tuesday, the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee held the bill over for possible recommendation to the House Capital Investment Committee.
Brainerd City Council President Bonnie Cumberland and Brainerd City Administrator Theresa Goble met Tuesday with lawmakers in St. Paul to discuss the issue.
The House bill, sponsored by Ward (House File 110) would appropriate $150,000 in bond proceeds for an elevator in the arena. A companion bill, (Senate File 127) sponsored by Ruud awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.
The legislative measure could likely be part of a bonding bill if the Legislature passes one this session.
Ruud, chief author of the bill to fund a civic center elevator, said Wednesday this a maintenance issue and something that is required of the civic center by the Americans Disability Act. The Breezy Point legislator said this rises up to level of an issue that deserves state funding.
Although she sees the need for this legislation she said she would prefer that bonding bills be passed in alternate years, rather than every year.
“The arena is a great asset to our community; however, it is not fully handicap accessible,” Ward said in a statement released by the House’s Public Information Services.
An elevator would permit access to everyone to the second level of the Brainerd Area Civic Center where a heated viewing area and a concession stand are located.
Cumberland said in the statement released by the House that there are only stairs between the first and second levels of the arena that was built in the mid-1970s.
“Current accommodations being made include going to get a snack order for an arena guest from the concession area and/or carrying the guest up a flight of 18 stairs,” she said. “You can imagine this is not only dangerous for everyone involved, but certainly humiliating for the individual who needs to be carried or pulled up the stairs in a wheelchair.”
Goble said in the statement the arena, which is owned by the city but run by the Brainerd Amateur Hockey Association, provides an economic boost to the community because youth hockey-related events bring in an estimated 25,000 visitors a year and another 15,000 people attend dry floor events.
Cumberland said the city doesn’t have the necessary funds for the upgrade, in part because of a loss of Local Government Aid in recent years, making capital purchases very limited. She said increasing a tax levy to cover the cost would be “next to impossible.” However, she said the city feels a “moral responsibility” to ensure all guests have full access at the arena.