Edina has given the go-ahead to a major addition to Braemar Arena, a move that officials hope will move the city's aging ice arena back among the area's foremost skating and hockey rinks.
The $3.6 million project, which is supposed to be complete by December, was unanimously approved by the City Council last week.
The 26,450-square-foot "Hornet's Nest" addition will add four locker rooms, two restrooms, and a privately run training facility and sporting goods store.
Parents who thought the arena was not up to current standards were the force behind the Drive for the Hive fundraising project and have committed to raising nearly $796,000 in donations for the addition.
The city will sell about $2.8 million in bonds for the project, which relies on fees from skating and hockey clubs to repay the bonds along with rent from operators of the training center and store.
Council approval came only after debate about the deal's reliance on commitments by private parties over whom the city has little control. Council members were concerned that with all of the revenue from the two business leases devoted to debt service, there was no way to guarantee those payments in the case of default.
The response from city officials: That's the reality of dealing with private businesses in a public project.
City Manager Scott Neal said that in the case of default or nonpayment, the city would use profits from such city enterprises as its liquor stores to fill the gap. Taxpayers would not be responsible for any shortfall, he said.
"I think these are the two best tenants we could get, but it's not without risk," Neal said.
Mayor Jim Hovland said the Braemar addition is happening sooner than planned because of the willingness of residents to seek "substantial investment" from private parties.
"We're going to take some risks ... but I'm prepared to go forward on it," he said. "It's an Edina tradition that things are first rate for our kids and families, and this is going to put us back on the top again in the world of hockey."
Officials hope the final cost of the addition will be reduced by nearly $500,000 by refining some details in the building.
At the time of the City Council meeting, the Drive for the Hive had banked $500,000 in donations. Another $150,000 was pledged once the council approved the project, and supporters said the rest would be raised through fundraising.
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 • Twitter: @smetan