A group of Farmington hockey-player parents is pursuing an agreement with the city and the local school district to finance, build and run a second ice skating sheet next to the Schmitz-Maki Arena.
The City Council recently voted 4 to 1 to let the Ice for Tigers group build a second rink just east of the city-owned ice arena at 114 West Spruce St., near downtown. The council also granted the group rink naming and sponsorship rights to boost rink fundraising.
Council Member Christy Jo Fogarty said at the packed Sept. 17 council meeting in City Hall that she has heard requests for a second ice sheet for 10 years, but this is "the most realistic and tangible thing I have seen presented to the city."
Mayor Todd Larson noted the city's approvals are contingent upon an acceptable joint powers agreement being reached. Council Members Jason Bartholomay and Terry Donnelly, a former school board member, were designated to help draft a joint powers agreement between the group, city, youth hockey association and Farmington School District. The pact would specify who will finance and operate the ice sheet.
Ice for Tigers has five core leaders, all dads of hockey players, said Mitch Snobeck, who started the group last December.
"Some hockey team parents were talking about all the traveling to Faribault or Hastings [to find hockey ice time because Maki was booked] and the cost in gas and family time," Snobeck said. Within a month, Snobeck said, he found four other men committed to raising money and community support for a second ice sheet in Farmington.
Ice for Tigers leaders say they haven't officially begun fundraising but have received commitments for $360,141 from three area supporters and group co-leader Rob Juncker, who said his employer, VMware, has matched his gift. He said about 200 other residents have volunteered their time for Ice for Tigers events or other efforts.
The council's positive vote is a big boost for Ice for Tigers, which will soon ramp up fundraising toward their $2.5 million goal, Snobeck said.
Juncker said a joint powers committee of about 17 members is being formed, including the five Ice for Tiger leaders, two council members, city staff and the leader of the Farmington Business Association. The school district will send two representatives, as will the Farmington Youth Hockey Association, the city Heritage Figure Skating Club, he said.
The committee plans to meet this month to look at financing alternatives, such as lease revenue bonds and an operations plan, Snobeck said. He said the goal is to have the second sheet ready for hockey next fall.
He said his group hired 292 Design Group, a Minneapolis architectural firm which has designed 28 area hockey arenas. The firm has drawn up plans for the new rink, which will have pre-fabricated walls, a lobby area and connect to Maki. 292 Design has helped the group refine the project's estimated cost, now ranging from $3.2 million to $4.5 million, Snobeck said, depending on compressor equipment selected and what amenities, such as player dressing rooms, are desired.
The council's lone negative vote was cast by Julie May, a bank loan officer. May said she wanted to see a financial plan before approving all the group's requests, although she was impressed by their two council presentations.
"We have to be careful about trying to fulfill everybody's needs," May said. The city has many other needs, including more trails and a new swimming pool, she said.
May noted the city started on a similar collaborative path a few years ago but ended holding the tab for the $1.14 million renovation of the Schmitz-Maki arena in 2010. The city sold bonds that mature in 2020 and this year made its first two payments totaling $144,000, said Finance Director Robin Hanson.
Ice Tigers leader Cal Hunter has also been a board director nine years for the youth hockey association. He said city and school groups working together can add a rink that would save travel time for hockey families and bring their business and tournament revenue into downtown Farmington.
Hunter said Ice for Tigers' motto is not, "If you build it they will come."
"We say: 'If we build it, they will stay.' It will keep our residents in the community doing a sport they love."
Jim Adams 952-746-3283