The fate of the Vadnais Sports Center is now in the hands of a judge.
Ramsey County Probate Judge David Higgs said Tuesday after a hearing that he will decide as quickly as possible whether to approve a bid by Ramsey County to acquire the complex from bondholders for $10.55 million, less than half of its $26 million building cost.
Several of the many private investors who put up the money to build the state-of-the-art center that includes a domed fieldhouse and two indoor ice rinks have objected to the sale.
The bonds were issued through the Vadnais Heights Economic Development Authority in a “conduit financing” arrangement in which the debt was issued on behalf of a nonprofit organization — Deephaven-based Community Facility Partners. The firm defaulted on the bonds when revenues failed to cover the cost of repaying them and operating the sports center.
Two bondholders, Barbara and Richard Zavrel of Prior Lake, told Higgs they stand to lose 60 to 70 percent of their money, adding that many of the bondholders are seniors like themselves who were looking for a secure investment. They questioned how the sale price was determined, and argued for more time to give the center a chance to become profitable.
“We’re not just numbers on paper, we are going to suffer a big loss,” Barbara Zavrel said.
But Michael Fisco, an attorney for U.S. Bank, the trustee for the bondholders that is pushing for the sale, said other alternatives for selling the sports center or bolstering revenue have been exhausted.
A plethora of other legal woes still dog the center, but its sale to the county — which could be final by midsummer depending on the judge’s ruling — is a separate matter. If the judge approves the transaction, the county would get a clear title to the complex, located at County Road E and Hwy. 61.