Brainerd city officials and school board members met Tuesday to discuss renewal of the district's Brainerd Area Civic Center lease for its boys' and girls' hockey teams.
The city initially asked for a $45,000 fee, which amounts to a $5,000 increase, and asked to take back managing and retaining gate revenue, about $15,000, for a total of $60,000. The Brainerd School District submitted a counterproposal for $46,000 with the district managing gate admission and capturing the net profit.
No decision was made at Tuesday's meeting and school board members will discuss the issue at an upcoming committee meeting.
The district last year took responsibility of managing gate fees to help increase revenue for the hockey program. School administrators recommended the board continue to manage gate fees, which cost nearly $3,000 for employee wages and other associated costs. Last year the district received about $12,000 from ticket sales, said Steve Lund, director of business services. City administrator Dan Vogt said the city would like to take back managing the gate.
City council member Bob Olson told board members that the city has not asked for an increase on its flat rate of $40,000 for 350 hours of ice time since 1996. He said several improvements have been made to the arena and several more are needed, justifying the increase. He said the city will be raising its usage fees for other organizations that use the arena.
"I don't feel we're being unreasonable in this $5,000 increase," said Olson. "The city has eaten the increase letting you have it for $40,000."
"You want to catch up, that's the truth of it," said Superintendent Steve Razidlo. "You want to catch up."
School board members said that the hockey teams are using much less ice time, under 275 hours, since there are fewer students out for hockey, and since the girls' hockey team has merged with Little Falls and the team sometimes practices in Little Falls.
Board member Molly Kurtzman questioned if the lease should be renegotiated for less money and less ice time to reflect the current usage. She asked what happens when the hockey players don't use their scheduled ice time. She was told by city officials that the arena rents out that time to other groups, such as the Brainerd Amateur Hockey Association. Athletics director Todd Selk said the girls' hockey team now practices about one-third of the time in Little Falls.
"So you're making money on the time we're not using?," asked Kurtzman. "It's kind of common sense, right? If the contract is at 350 (hours) and we're still paying $40,000, can't we adjust to more accurate hours?"
Kurtzman also asked about personnel costs. Vogt said since 1996 arena employees who were once making about $10-$12 an hour are now making about $25 an hour as part of a union group.
City council member Mary Koep said the district also has full use of both locker rooms and its pick of prime ice time and those privileges also could be renegotiated. She said the city has had to turn down opportunities for dry floor events during the hockey season.
"It's hemorrhaging, there are repairs that need to be done there and we don't have the money," Koep said of the civic center. "The city already has been subsidizing it. There really aren't any good solutions. We have to be more business-like in how we do it."
Bob Nystrom, school board member, said the district also has the option of eliminating the hockey program, which could become part of BAHA.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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