The lead bidder for the Vadnais Sports Center has missed a deadline in the purchase process, putting Ramsey County and a private group representing hundreds of youth hockey players in White Bear Lake back in the running to buy the troubled ice arena.

Northern Educate, which operates sports and academic programs at Vadnais Sports Center under a lease arrangement, had submitted a $13 million bid to buy the 200,000-square-foot ice arena at the corner of Hwy. 61 and County Road E. A letter of intent for a purchase agreement, however, was not submitted by Monday's deadline to Community Facility Partners (CFP), said Dan Nelson, attorney for the Deephaven-based nonprofit that took ownership of the facility after the city of Vadnais Heights took out $26 million in revenue bonds on its behalf to fund the arena's construction. CFP defaulted on the bonds after revenues fell short and city subsidies ended.

"We had a proposal that was never consummated," Nelson said, so now CFP is moving on to consider the other two bids.

Bondholders will hold another conference call early next month with the trustee handling the sale on their behalf, U.S. Bank, to discuss the next step.

The next highest bidder for the arena was Gem Lake Lodge LLC, a North Oaks-based nonprofit, which is affiliated with the White Bear Lake Hockey Association. Like Northern Educate's bid, its $10.65 million bid was contingent on securing financing. Ramsey County, seeking a three-year-old, state-of-the art arena at a bargain price, submitted a straight cash bid of $10.55 million.

Paul Pappageorge of Gem Lake Lodge said the group is definitely still interested in securing the arena, adding its best use for the community is to support youth hockey. "I've sent a letter to the trustee saying we're still here, and we're still very much interested in moving forward with our plan," he said. The hockey association is a prime user of the Vadnais Sports Center.

Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega said the county remains interested should the Northern Educate effort fail. "They have our bid," he said.

Northern Educate also has not counted itself out in making another try, even though it missed this week's deadline, said Craig Woodcroft, president of the company.