Weather Forecast


Moe hopes events center lease agreement will be in hand by mid-December

While there certainly is work that soon needs to be finished on the events center, Rep. Frank Moe said Thursday that officials involved in the planning process took their time considering the proposal.

"We're not rushing the whole project," said Moe, DFL-Bemidji. "The project has been done thoughtfully and deliberately."

The city of Bemidji and Bemidji State University must now sit down and come to an agreement on a potential lease, Moe said.

Moe said he would like to have a signed lease agreement in hand by Dec. 15, when the Capital Investment Finance committee from the Minnesota the House of Representatives begins to prioritize the bonding requests - but he stopped short of naming a deadline.

"I'll be very clear," Moe said. "We have $4 billion worth of bonding requests. Our project doesn't have a chance if we don't have an agreement between the university and the city."

The Bemidji City Council is considering a $50 million events center/arena in which BSU hockey would serve as the anchor tenant. One-half of the funding would come from the city's half-cent sales tax; $22 million - which when combined with the $3 million allocated by the state last year equals the other half - would come from legislative bonding, if approved in 2008.

BSU President Jon Quistgaard and the City Council met Wednesday in a work session, during which Quistgaard said the university cannot decide on fully committing to the events center until the end of the year. By then, he said, the university hopes to have more information regarding two key goals. One is to admit its men's hockey program into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, but the WCHA currently has a moratorium in place on expansion. Secondly, Quistgaard wants to ensure the financial viability of the Division I men's hockey program and has asked that the program raise $500,000 a year for each of the next five years, or $2.5 million total.

Moe said the end of December might be too late, as the Capital Investment Finance committee begins to prioritize the bonding requests it reviewed in mid-December.

Moe said he will present to the Legislature whatever information the city and university has compiled, but said he hopes that answers to outstanding questions - and a signed lease - will be available by Dec. 15.

"It's not whether the project is good or bad," he said. "It's whether it is ready to go."

State Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, also said she hopes that questions will soon be answered. But the 2008 legislative session will not begin until next year, so time remains, she said.

She said the city and university should try to answer as many questions as possible before the legislative session begins. Having decisions would not only be beneficial for lawmakers, but for community members as well, she said.

"These are not just issues that we need to know from a legislative standpoint, but from a public support (standpoint) as well," she said.