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City Council, Quistgaard to meet tonight

The Bemidji City Council has a little more than two months to answer some looming questions.

The council has to soon finalize its request for legislative bonding that would assist in costs associated with construction of the proposed events center.

Tonight, the City Council will take steps toward answering some of the outstanding questions on the project as councilors will finally meet at City Hall with their possible partner, Bemidji State University President Jon Quistgaard.

Councilors have been asking for months to meet with Quistgaard to begin negotiations regarding a possible lease with BSU for the hockey teams' use of the events center/arena. The council hopes that BSU hockey would be the anchor tenant of the events center.

The agenda for tonight's 6 p.m. meeting is limited strictly to discussion of the events center with Quistgaard.

However, Dave Hengel and Cliff Tweedale with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, the project coordinator, plan to present a couple of options to the council as well.

One proposal will be that the city hire an operations consultant. This person - presumably St. Cloud attorney Brian Schoenborn, who came to Bemidji in late August to discuss his involvement with similar arenas - would better be able to answer questions regarding what the projected operations and maintenance costs would be for the events center, Hengel said.

There is no one in the community who can address issues such as naming rights, concessions and operations, Hengel said, adding that Schoenborn also is a trained negotiator and mediator who could sit down with BSU and the city. While the HRDC was hired to help advance the project, Hengel said HRDC staff does not have specific experience relating to events center projects, as Schoenborn has.

The HRDC also will ask the City Council approve an aggressive public engagement strategy to raise community awareness about the project.

Hengel said on Tuesday that he expects the conversation with Quistgaard to last about 45 minutes. He said he expects the City Council to consider establishing a negotiations committee to work with Quistgaard and BSU.

How much time the council will spend debating the other two options is unknown, Hengel said.