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Council discusses events center timeline

In order to accommodate an October 2010 opening for Bemidji State University hockey, the Bemidji City Council will need to consider some options regarding the construction timeline for the events center.

Architect Paul Richards from Widseth, Smith, Nolting presented the council with a timeline for the events center project and overall south shore redevelopment during a work session Monday night.

The events center will require 24 months for construction, he said. If construction does not start until spring 2009, unless it is accelerated, BSU hockey would not be able to move into the facility in October 2010 as planned, he explained.

Thus, Richards presented the council with several options:

E Construction would start as planned in spring 2009 but would be bid as a 17-month project.

E Footing and foundation work would be done this fall and construction would begin in spring 2009 and span another 17 months.

E Construction would begin in spring 2009 and last 24 months, delaying BSU's occupancy of the facility.

City Manager John Chattin and Councilor Ron Johnson both spoke against the third option, saying that BSU has been planning on an October 2010 opening.

"It's been October 2010 all along to get BSU into this facility," Chattin said. "If we change that, we would have to sit down with BSU and find out what those repercussions are."

BSU has been working to pre-sell premium seating, such as suites, to fans based on a 2010-11 hockey season in the new arena, Chattin explained.

Johnson added that the scheduling alliance with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association also is based on October 2010 occupancy.

The entire south shore development area, which includes the proposed site of the events center, will be submitted to the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board as one Planned Unit Development, Chattin and Richards told the council.

Richards told the council that if it was interested in having work on the footings and foundation done yet this year in the fall, the PUD process would need to be accelerated - but it is doable.

"We really need to be directed now to do that," he said.

The council voted unanimously to support a shortened time frame for the PUD, which could potentially lead to the authorization of construction this fall on the footings and foundation.

Chattin told the council that it would not be asked to authorize the footing and foundation work until the fate of the city's legislative requests - $22 million in bonding and an extension of the half-cent sales tax - was known.

"None of that would be done until you knew whether you have the sales tax, whether you have the bonding," he said.

City staff and consultants such as Richards do need to know, however, what the city is intending to aim for, he explained.

"We need to know that's what we're driving toward," Chattin said.

Councilor Roger Hellquist said he would like to review detailed numbers about how the overall cost would be affected by each construction option for the facility.

Richards said it would be difficult to quantify because construction bids are based on several unknown factors, such as the bidding environment at the time, the economy and the cost for materials.

"This is not something that is very tangible," Richards said.

Mayor Richard Lehmann encouraged him to work on finding some rough figures that could offer some insight into how much construction generally goes up if a project is delayed on year, and how much an accelerated project - having a 24-month building constructed in 17 months - increases costs.

Richards said he would contact Cost, Planning and Management International and provide those numbers to the City Council by March 15.