Council takes a careful step towards expanding Plymouth Ice Center

City Council discussed the possibility of constructing a $1 million training facility addition to the Plymouth Ice Center at a special meeting Jan. 14. Though some councilmembers seemed leery, the public-private partnership between the city, Wayzata Youth Hockey Association and Acceleration Minnesota NW will move forward to initial planning stages. (Sun staff photo by Brian Rosemeyer)

Plans for a $1 million training facility could appear in spring 

Plymouth City Council has tentatively given the okay to move forward on exploring the construction of a $1 million training facility at the Plymouth Ice Center.

Council met with city staff and representatives from the Wayzata Youth Hockey Association and Acceleration Minnesota NW at a special meeting Jan. 14 to further the public-private partnership that could, according to Parks and Recreation Director Diane Evans, ensure the financial stability of the ice center facility.

The center is home to Wayzata High School boys and girls hockey, Providence Academy hockey and a number of other youth associations and group tournaments.

In 2012, the city logged more than 6,800 hours of ice time and, Evans said, the rinks are consistently booked solid in the winter months.

Because of the heavy use, Plymouth is able to operate the Ice Center in the black and mark it as an earner within the budget.

However, Evans said that the city must continue to invest in the facility to keep up with competitive arenas in the region.

“Change is happening all around the metro with these facilities,” she said. “It’s important to meet current trends to attract new clientele and to maintain our existing customers to support our strong financial position.”

The idea is to add a 72,000 square-foot addition to the backside of the existing building. There would be no ice in the proposed training area and it would be used primarily for conditioning sessions for a number of sports.

Plymouth would lease the space to a private partner who specializes in that type of training, and the lease would provide yearly income for the budget.

The dry-land facility would cost roughly $1 million and Wayzata Youth Hockey Association has come forward with a pledge of $400,000 toward the construction – $1,000 initially and $75,000 annually for the subsequent four years.

The private partner in the project is Acceleration Minnesota, a sport training company with locations in Plymouth and Ramsey. The initial proposal includes a 10-year lease agreement with a yearly lease rate of $9 per square foot with a 3 percent yearly inflator ($64,980-$84,784).

Acceleration Minnesota would prepay their year-one lease prior to construction in 2014. Payment for lease years two to 10 would be paid monthly.

With this preliminary lease agreement, Acceleration Minnesota would pay a total of $744,922 by year 10 – $144,000 more than the city’s total investment.

“I believe this is a great opportunity, and I think it’s a smart move on our behalf,” Evans said.

Councilmember Jim Willis remained skeptical.

“Are these needs or wants?” Willis asked.

Evans responded indicating that, financially speaking, it meets the need in trend to provide off-ice revenue and to remain a viable business for the city.

“With all due respect, this is not a good financial deal, from my perspective,” Willis replied, suggesting private investors may be better suited to invest in the project, not taxpayers.

“We’re putting a lot of tax dollars into this facility,” Mayor Kelli Slavik added. “I’ve struggled with that, it’s a lot of money, and not every Plymouth taxpayer wants the money to go here. Though, I guess, you could say that about anything.”

Other councilmembers were reluctant to enter a public-private agreement with Acceleration Minnesota without exploring other vendors as alternate options.

Councilmember Jeff Wosje said he identifies risk in partnering with Acceleration without taking offers or interest from anyone else.

Evans noted that Wayzata Youth Hockey Association has a long-standing relationship with the company, and Acceleration has held lease agreements with the city in the past at Plymouth Creek Center.

Acceleration Minnesota Owner Kurt Haring was in attendance at the meeting to make his case for being involved in the project.

“We’re definitely a company that’s continuing to grow,” Haring said. “And I think this possibility will open a lot of new doors for us as well.”

He continued to note that, in his nine years of ownership, Acceleration Minnesota has grown 126 percent and an average of 5-6 percent in the past five years.

Mayor Slavik noted that, in addition to this proposal, the ice center is also in need of roughly $3-4 million in basic upkeep projects.

The city has identified that the 16-year-old building needs new roofing over the original two rinks, a state-mandated refrigerant conversion and a conversion for one of the rinks from Olympic size to a smaller professional size.

As Plymouth searches for funding options for the improvements, the added off-ice revenue could be the funding source needed.

“We’re supporting an asset that we’re pouring millions of dollars into. If we don’t do this, I think that we will become obsolete over time.” Councilmember Tim Bildsoe said. “Our competitors are doing a lot more than this; we’re already behind,”

At the end of the discussion, City Council gave a slight nod to continue exploring the option.

Evans said that they would bring consultants on board and begin further planning stages with partners. She expects a plan could come for council discussion in March or April.

 

Contact Brian Rosemeyer at brian.rosemeyer@ecm-inc.com

 

 

 

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