Shakopee will no longer convert a rink at the city-owned ice arena into an artificial turf field each spring due to less demand for field space and increased demand for ice time from youth groups.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a plan to sell its artificial grass for $60,000 and put that money toward creating a new room for meetings and parties at the two-year-old arena.
City officials bought the turf in 2017 to meet “what was a perceived need in our community,” said Jay Tobin, Shakopee parks and recreation director. “There are other venues nearby that can provide a better experience.”
At first, teams were excited about playing lacrosse, baseball, softball and soccer in the converted arena space from mid-March to late April, when outdoor fields are still wet, Tobin said.
This year, turf rental revenue dropped to $13,800, down $10,000 from the year before, as teams reserved space elsewhere, including the newly built Shakopee High School fieldhouse, the Savage Sports Center and Soccer Blast in Burnsville, Tobin said.
The Shakopee facility didn’t always suit the needs of athletes. Soccer players sometimes collided with the boards on the ice arena that was outfitted with turf.
At the same time, figure skating and hockey groups want more skate time, even in the offseason, Tobin said, and ice time sells for nearly twice as much as turf time, which goes for $90 an hour.
“When we take ice out we lose money selling turf,” he said.
Switching from ice to turf and back again is expensive and laborious, costing $13,500 annually and preventing use of the space for two weeks, Tobin said. After accounting for that cost, the city netted just $300 in turf rental fees this year.
A hockey group has already expressed interest in buying 216 hours of ice time next spring, which would net the city nearly $37,000, he said.
The artificial turf cost the city about $82,500 and the turf’s value depreciates about 10 percent a year, the city said.
It’s clear that the turf “is just not working,” said Council Member Matt Lehman.
Many other ice arenas still switch to turf in the hockey offseason, including facilities in Inver Grove Heights, Hastings, Anoka and Cottage Grove.
Tobin said that if an ice arena is making money selling turf time, it’s often because the facility is old. “They are putting in turf because they can’t sell the ice, so they’re trying to generate some revenue,” he said, citing Chaska’s arena.
Jim Becker, who owns Becker Arena Products, said he’s seen ice arenas hold onto their turf “forever” even though it’s not making money. He couldn’t immediately think of another facility that had taken it out.
“I think [Shakopee] did their due diligence and saw where the turf just wasn’t going to be a long-term community asset,” Becker said.