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Bemidji Regional Events Center FAQs: What is known and unknown

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Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
(218) 333-9819 customer support
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Basics

-- What is the proposal? The Bemidji City Council supports construction of a facility that would include an events center/hockey arena, a convention center and a second sheet of ice. The City Council supports three phases of construction, and is now only considering the first phase of the project, which is the $50 million events center/arena.

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-- Where would the events center/arena be located? The building would be located east of Irvine Avenue and south of Third Street adjacent to the railroad corridor. Parking would be constructed in four lots along the rail line.

-- How is Bemidji State University involved? The City Council hopes that BSU hockey would be the anchor tenant of the facility. BSU President Jon Quistgaard has said he wants to work with the City Council, but no agreement has been signed at this time.

-- What type of events would be held at the events center? Discussions have centered on graduations, trade and convention shows, and concerts. Other possibilities include weddings, performances and sporting events.

-- Will the plan include a community center? A community center (a facility with a walking track, weight room, exercise equipment, etc.) has never been included or proposed to be part of this plan. However, community meeting rooms are being considered as part of the plan.

-- What exactly did voters approve in November 2006? The question on the ballot asked: "Shall the Bemidji City Council seek special Legislative authorization to extend the current one half of one percent local sales and use tax (.5%) for the purpose of paying 60% of the cost to construct the Bemidji Regional Events Center? (The projected cost of constructing the Event Center is $35 million. The State is responsible for appropriating 40% of the cost. If authorized, the City will issue General Obligation Bonds up to the authorized amount for the purpose of paying capital and administrative costs of acquisition, demolition, construction, infrastructure improvements, furniture, fixtures and equipment. Revenues from the extended Sales and Use Tax will be pledged to the payment of the Bonds, with Bond payments also guaranteed by the City's Property Taxes.)"

-- Has the project changed since the vote last fall? No. The City Council then was considering an events center and is still considering the events center today. While some may believe the cost stated in the ballot question - $35 million - has increased to $50 million, it was never proposed to be a set cost. The ballot question itself states that $35 million was a projected cost.

Finances

-- How much will the facility cost to construct? The City Council has capped the first phase of construction at $50 million, of which $22 million would come from 2008 state bonding (if approved), which when added to the $3 million in 2006 state bonding would equal half of the proposed $50 million project. The other half would be paid by the city through its half-cent city sales tax.

-- How much will it cost to operate and maintain? O/M costs are unknown. A feasibility study was released in November 2006 by Wayzata-based Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, which said the events center would likely operate at a deficit. However, that study was based on the entire, three-tiered project. Until the City Council determines the specifics of the building it plans to construct, O/M costs will remain unknown.

BSU

-- Why does BSU need a new hockey arena? Both BSU hockey teams currently play at the John S. Glas Fieldhouse on campus. The facility has been described as "woefully inadequate," but the main reason is that BSU hopes to admit its men's program into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The WCHA has several arena requirements, including seating and suite requirements.

-- Will the BSU men's hockey team be admitted into the WCHA if the events/arena is built? There is no guarantee that the WCHA will accept the Beavers; the WCHA currently has a moratorium on expansion in place.

-- When will BSU know if it can commit to being the anchor tenant? Quistgaard has said a decision will not be made until after the first of the year. He said he expects to better understand by then what BSU's chances are to be considered for admittance into the WCHA and if the hockey program will be able to raise $2.5 million for program support.

-- Why does BSU hockey want a second sheet of ice? Teams in the WCHA play on two different sizes of ice, an NHL-sized rink and Olympic-sized rink. Some, but not all, teams in the WCHA play on Olympic-sized ice, which is 100 feet by 200 feet (an NHL-sized rink is 85 feet by 200 feet). BSU Athletic Director Rick Goeb has said it would benefit the BSU programs to have both sizes available.

-- Which size is proposed for the new arena? An NHL-sized rink has been proposed for the events center/arena.

-- Which size is the John Glas Fieldhouse? The John Glas Fieldhouse has an NHL-sized rink.

-- If the second sheet of ice is constructed, could the team practice on it and compete in the main arena, thus making the events center more open for events? According to Goeb, it would be disadvantageous for the hockey teams to practice on ice that is one size and then compete against teams on a different size of ice. For example, if the team were scheduled to play against the University of Minnesota, which plays on Olympic-sized ice, the Beavers would practice that week on the Olympic-size sheet. And vice versa for teams that play on NHL-sized ice.

-- Could the BSU hockey teams practice at John Glas Fieldhouse and play games at the new arena? Not likely. Goeb has said it would be financially difficult for BSU to continue to operate and maintain John Glas and also pay on a lease to play at the events center/arena.

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Bethany Wesley
(218) 333-9200 x337
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