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Published January 01, 2009, 12:00 AM

UP Center again asks Fargo Park Board for help

South Fargo’s Urban Plains Center is again asking the Park District for some taxpayer help. Gravel parking lots for the new hockey arena that were supposed to cost $125,000 will now cost nearly $225,000, the Park District’s facilities subcommittee was told Wednesday.

By: Helmut Schmidt, The Forum

South Fargo’s Urban Plains Center is again asking the Park District for some taxpayer help.

Gravel parking lots for the new hockey arena that were supposed to cost $125,000 will now cost nearly $225,000, the Park District’s facilities subcommittee was told Wednesday.

The Metro Sports Foundation, which manages the facility, wants the extra $100,000 added to a previous special assessment request, President Todd Berning told the group.

Also, members of a committee organizing an under-18 hockey tournament at the UP Center in April want to use the Park Board’s tax-exempt status and some of the district’s facilities, equipment and staff volunteers to save money.

U18 committee members said with the Park District’s help they could save up to $38,000 in hotel and sales taxes during the tournament.

The facilities committee agreed with Berning’s request to bring the assessment issue before the full Park Board on Jan. 13.

The Park Board, which acts as UP Center landlord so the center can get tax-exempt status, must approve any debt the MSF takes on to run the arena.

The Park Board agreed last fall to have the city assess $125,000 against the arena to build gravel parking lots shortly before it opened.

Park Board President Ron Sorvaag cautioned Berning that he wants to see future UP Center projects planned farther in advance.

Sorvaag also said he wants banks holding the arena debt to be told of the request to increase the assessment because the arena and land are collateral for the mortgage.

Berning said a wet fall played havoc with parking lot construction.

According to an analysis offered by Berning, the arena should have $69,200 in parking revenue annually, with $38,750 in expenses, leaving net income of $30,450 per year.

Berning said assessment payments on $220,000 over 25 years at 6 percent interest would be $17,000 a year, paid with the parking revenues.

But Jim Larson, the Park District’s director of finance and human resources - and a former Metro Sports Foundation board member - said he will ask that the special assessment be at least $225,000 because it appears that parking lot costs will creep above the $220,000 mark.

Berning said the lots can handle moderate rain and the weight of buses, but need more work.

Berning said the arena now has about 800 parking spots in a west lot, 400 spots in a south lot and 280 spots to the far east. About 125 parking spots are available on the street and there are 40 paved spots in front of the arena, he said.

The facilities committee agreed to forward to the full board a request to use Park District facilities and staff volunteers to support the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Under 18 Championship April 9-19.

The Park District is also being asked to handle bill payments for hotels and food for the event so the tournament can avoid paying $36,000 to $38,000 in taxes. The Park District would be reimbursed for those costs, tournament organizers said.

Other help U18 tournament organizers want from the Park District includes:

- Having the Southwest Youth Arena designated as a secondary practice facility and to be used as volunteer headquarters.

- Freezers for hockey pucks during the tournament.

- A Park District ice-refinishing machine to be used at the UP Center.

- A Hockey Day promotion at local indoor ice rinks to kick off the tournament.

- Use of Courts Plus as a secondary workout facility for teams.

- A Courts Plus and Courts Plus Express promotion for out-of-town hockey fans.

- Marketing for the tournament at local rinks.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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