FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- More than a decade after approving a city sales tax to build the Fargodome, voters here soundly rejected extending the tax to help build a new hockey arena next door. North Dakota State University wanted the arena as a home for a future Division I hockey program.
With all precincts reporting, 'no' votes totaled 13,283 to 7,957 'yes,' a 63 percent to 37 percent margin. To pass, the measure needed at least 60 percent of the vote.
Supporters of the arena admitted late Tuesday that their chances appeared to be growing slim when early vote totals showed a big margin.
''I think you have to be practical and somewhat realistic at this stage,'' said Erv Inniger, associate athletic director at NDSU. ''When you're down this far this early, you have to realize that maybe the citizens don't want this. ... You have to respect that.''
City leaders and North Dakota State University athletic boosters had backed the proposal. NDSU was hoping the $40 million facility would be the home of new men's and women's Division I hockey programs.
Voters were asked whether to approve extending a half-cent sales tax to raise about $33 million to help build the hockey arena. NDSU had committed to raising another $10 million through private sources.
The plan called for a main, 8,200-seat arena and another, smaller area that could be used either for a second sheet of ice or as space for meetings and conventions. A special city committee recommended building the facility as an addition to the west side of the Fargodome.
The half-cent sales tax was passed in 1988 to help pay for construction of the Fargodome. It is set to expire Dec. 31, 2008.
Inniger said despite early vote totals, NDSU will continue to push for Division I hockey and continue to discuss ideas on where to play.
''We will regroup,'' he said. ''We really didn't have a secondary plan if this failed. But we are committed to the idea and will continue discussing some options.''
Roger Reierson, chairman of the arena site-selection committee, said he also remains committed.
''I still see this as a great opportunity for Fargo, a great opportunity for North Dakota State and a great opportunity for Division I hockey,'' he said. ''We gave it our best shot. I just hope this isn't an indication that this community is losing is progressive edge.''
Former Mayor Jon Lindgren, who led efforts opposing the arena, said he was pleased with the ballot results. Lindgren and others had questioned the need for the arena and criticized the funding method.
Voter turnout exceeded 20,000, which broke the record for a Fargo city election. The previous record was set when residents first approved the Fargodome sales tax in December 1988.
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