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Park Board OKs hockey event help

The Urban Plains Center and a group putting together an international youth hockey tournament both got needed help from the Fargo Park Board on Tuesday.

The Urban Plains Center and a group putting together an international youth hockey tournament both got needed help from the Fargo Park Board on Tuesday.

The Park Board voted 5-0 to let the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Under 18 Championship committee use Park District facilities, equipment and volunteers to support the event.

The tourney will be played at the UP Center and Moorhead Sports Center April 9-19.

The board also voted 5-0 to let the Metro Sports Foundation, which runs the UP Center, add $100,000 to a special assessment to pay for the arena's gravel parking lots. That brings the assessment to about $225,000.

Park Board President Ron Sorvaag told MSF President Todd Berning that future work must be better planned.

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"It's pretty well understood," Sorvaag said. "From now on, (project costs must be set) before the fact, not after."

Jim Larson, the district's director of finance and human resources, said banks holding the UP Center debt approved adding to the assessment.

Sorvaag said the MSF needs to realize public entities need time for full review.

"This obviously wasn't done properly," Sorvaag said in an interview prior to the meeting. "You don't spend the money and then come and ask for it. That's not how it works in the public setting. I'm hoping they're (the Metro Sports Foundation) starting to understand that better.

"They asked us to put our names on it. To do that, they have to work within our system," he said.

Sorvaag said the parking lot assessments will be paid by the MSF, so the public purse is protected.

"We don't want public dollars in there. In my opinion, that's what the public said," Sorvaag said.

The U18 committee did withdraw a request to have the Park District use its tax-exempt status to pay food and hotel bills for the tourney, a move they said at an earlier meeting could have saved $38,000 in taxes.

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"We believe there are more proactive ways" to fund the tournament, event manager and UP Center General Manager Lance Johnson said.

Sorvaag said the "pass-through" bill payment concept was better off dropped.

"I think it kind of hit a raw nerve with the public. I think a lot of people perceived it as asking for direct public dollars," Sorvaag said.

Help approved for the 10-day U18 tournament includes:

•Use of the Southwest Youth Arena as a secondary practice facility and volunteer headquarters.

•Volunteers from staff. Tournament officials said up to 500 volunteers are needed.

•Use of a Zamboni as a backup.

•Use of the Anderson Softball Complex parking lots.

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•Courts Plus as a workout facility for the teams.

•Courts Plus and Courts Plus Express promotions to out-of-town fans.

•Freezers for pucks.

•Events at local rinks to promote hockey.

•Marketing for the tournament at district facilities.

U18 tournament organizers were also told Tuesday that the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau set aside $10,000 for the event.

Cole Carley, the CVB's president and CEO, said the tourney is an event "that transcends competition."

Carley said conservative estimates call for the tourney to pump $2 million into the local economy, while showing off the metro area and adding to local quality of life.

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"We ... enthusiastically support this tournament," Carley said.

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

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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