Already operating in the red, the city-owned Brainerd Area Civic Center could take a five-figure hit in revenue if the Brainerd School District eliminates its girls' and boys' hockey programs.
City Administrator Dan Vogt said the city receives $40,000 for ice use at the two arenas plus between $12,000 to $15,000 in gate receipts for high school hockey games.
Eliminating the hockey programs would result in $50,000 to $55,000 less revenue at the civic center, Vogt said.
"It definitely would have an impact on us," Vogt said.
While city staffers haven't fully analyzed the impact of losing high school hockey at the arenas, which includes two ice sheets - the civic center and the Gold Medal Arena, Vogt noted fewer hours of ice time used could result in staff changes at the arena.
Brainerd Warriors senior forward Christian Engel battled with a Little Falls Flyer this winter at the Brainerd Area Civic Center as the Brainerd student body cheered on the Warriors. City Administrator Dan Vogt said the city receives $40,000 for ice use at the two arenas plus between $12,000 to $15,000 in gate receipts. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"It's going to have an effect, no doubt about it," said council member Mark O'Day, who also is chairman of the city's Personnel and Finance Committee. "I'm not sure how we're going to be able to handle it at this point."
O'Day noted with the recent restructuring of Minnesota Hockey Camps contract for ice use, the city was getting close to bringing the arena out of a deficit. He said other contracts would need to be looked at if high school hockey programs were cut, but conceded the other organizations renting ice could only handle so much of an increase.
As a parent of former hockey players, O'Day said he was surprised by the announcement that girls' and boys' hockey were proposed for elimination. He said parents now might have to foot the bill for their kids to play hockey.
"You're used to paying for kids to be in hockey but you kind of looked forward to the day when they were in high school and didn't have to pay," O'Day said. "I knew the cuts were coming and I thought hockey was one of the major ones that would be left, but when you think about it, it's also probably one of the more expensive ones for the school, too."
Council member Bob Olson, who has been preparing a financial analysis of the arenas from 1996-2007, said he hoped the high school wouldn't have to cut hockey or any sport.
"It would be a financial loss to the city and we can't afford that," Olson said. "Right now, even with that money from the school district, the arenas still aren't self-supporting."
While it bothers him that girls' and boys' hockey programs might be cut, Olson also said he has sympathy for all sports and academics proposed to be cut as well as the staffers that will lose their jobs.
Still, Olson said people shouldn't yet panic. He said he's hopeful that the district's second option - that Warrior Way Inc. can raise money to save school sports - will be adopted by the school board.
Olson and Vogt also wondered what cutting boys' and girls' hockey programs would mean to the Brainerd Amateur Hockey Association, which is the feeder program for Brainerd High School hockey and pays $100,000 to use the two ice rinks.
Bob Joyce, BAHA president, said the organization is in the process of evaluating what the school district's recommendations mean.
"We are not excited about the district's proposal" to cut athletics, Joyce said. "We can only assume there will be a detriment to our program if the school board decides to eliminate high school hockey."
Joyce, the father of two children who play hockey, said it isn't an alternative for a majority of families to move to another school district so their kids can play hockey.
BAHA's importance was more than just a feeder program to the high school teams, Joyce said. He noted that surveys conducted at 100 games during hockey tournaments last year at the Brainerd Area Civic Center showed the tournaments brought about $1 million to the local economy.
He said BAHA hopes Warrior Way Inc. will be able to raise the necessary funds to save school athletics by April 1.
"Our plan is to support Warrior Way as intensely as we can," Joyce said. "Once the school board draws the line in the sand with them and if the board's requirements haven't been met we'll definitely try to work with the school board. But our expectations are that Warrior Way, through support of all athletics, will come up with funds to meet requirements of all sports."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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