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Worthington City Council OK's ice arena agreement

After reviewing past financials, the council moved to enter into a one-year lease agreement for the ice arena.

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The Worthington Ice Arena is shown in this Tuesday photo. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)
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WORTHINGTON — Continued discussions surrounding management of the Worthington Ice Arena took up the majority of a special city council session Wednesday at Worthington City Hall.

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First brought before the council in July, city leaders reviewed a proposed agreement during a regularly scheduled council meeting Sept. 12. The proposed agreement called for the city to pay an annual lease of $1. As part of the agreement, the city would assume responsibility for interior and exterior maintenance of the facility, scheduling of events, managing and staffing arena programs including open skate times, and equipment maintenance.

The Worthington Hockey Association, who originally approached the city about the potential agreement, would continue to preside over all things hockey-related, as well as staff the concessions stand and help with ice installation.

Since tabling the item Sept. 12, city staff looked into the ice arena's financials, hoping to answer questions regarding the potential financial burden to the city.

“Using the financial information of the Hockey Association provided, we have come up with what we feel is a reasonable operational budget,” Public Works Director Todd Wietzema told the council.

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Working with estimated revenues of $110,600, Weitzema said staff determined potential operation costs at $97,200. The operations budget would cover building repairs and maintenance, utilities and personnel costs, among other items.

“These are estimates to the best of our ability,” Weitzema said, noting the budget was created based on the Hockey Associations' past financials.

While the largest percentage of revenue would come from the $75,000 the Hockey Association would pay in fees for ice time, representative Jason Johnson told council members that in the past, open skate time, skate rentals and sharpening are main contributors to their revenue.

As part of the proposed lease, the city of Worthington will host an additional weekly skate night at the ice arena.

Councilwoman Amy Ernst, who raised financial concerns during the Sept. 12 meeting, said she felt better moving forward having looked at past numbers. However, she stated the long-term plans for the facility and the goals of the Hockey Association should be taken into account before the council made a final decision.

“As a member of the Worthington Hockey Association,” Johnson said, “we've had discussions with multiple people that maybe it's time to try to spearhead raising some money from different entities, private citizens, businesses, and try to make it attractive enough to be able to move forward with building a new facility.”

He said that 20 years from now, he hoped the current arena wouldn’t still be used as an ice rink, and that the hockey association would be able to look more at future plans once current management discussions concluded.

“A group of people and businesses in this community went together and put up this building that is used by anybody and everybody,” Councilman Chad Cummings said of the work and benefits the hockey association has provided to the community since the group's inception in the 1980s. “It's almost exactly what we've asked for, in recent times, for the private-public partnership to create something in this community.”

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The council ultimately approved the lease agreement, with the understanding that they would reassess the lease after the hockey season. Councilman Chris Keilblock cast the lone dissenting vote, having voiced concerns about the city's potential debt liability, and the timing of new city amenities coming online.

In other action Wednesday, the council:

  • Heard a presentation from County Attorney Joe Sanow, whose office serves as municipal prosecutors for Worthington and other surrounding cities. 
    Currently, the city is contracted to pay 25% of the County Attorney's Office expenses in exchange for those services. Sanow said while he is looking to maintain that percentage, his office is looking at a cost increase for 2023, due to a professional services contract with Eckberg Lammers. This contract will help municipal prosecutors amid staffing shortages, and will represent a 10.8% increase over what the city paid last year.
  • Discussed placing request orders for city vehicles ahead of the state contract opening, in order to ensure a place on the list. 
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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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