County offers #036;800,000 to city for ice arena

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2001

The city of Austin wanted $1.

Wednesday, May 02, 2001

The city of Austin wanted $1.1 million from Mower County to build a new ice arena.

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It will get $800,000.

The city is at least $355,000 short of what it wants to build the new arena.

Council members meet Monday, and the project is sure to dominate discussions.

The county board unanimously approved giving the city $800,000 in four increments at their meeting Tuesday afternoon.

With Mayor Bonnie Rietz, First Ward Councilwoman Mickey Jorgenson, City Administrator Pat McGarvey and Financial Services Director Tom Dankert watching, there was little discussion from the county board members.

Also in attendance was Larry Lyons, representing the Austin Youth Hockey Association, the prime force behind the proposed new ice arena.

Len Miller, Fourth District county commissioner, said the county board’s finance committee had studied the city’s request and decided on the $800,000 amount.

The city is putting $900,000 of its own monies into the project and also will be able to use one of the two $250,000 Mighty Ducks grants awarded the county by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission.

Most of the estimated costs for the project are coming from Hormel Foods Corp. and the Hormel Foundation as well as $175,000 raised by the Austin Youth Hockey Association and Riverside Figure Skating Club.

The county attempted to pursue a multipurpose building project at the county fairgrounds in southwest Austin without success.

When contractors’ budget estimates exceeded the county’s $5.5 million budget, the county commissioners decided early this year to abandon the project.

Except for support from the city of Austin, the multipurpose building project never garnered enthusiasm outside Austin.

The county board’s original motion to pursue the project was a narrow 3-2 decision.

Miller said the county’s share of the project will begin when ground is broken for a new city arena to complement the existing Riverside Arena ice facility. Another $200,000 will be paid when construction starts and another $200,000 when the project is completed.

The final $200,000 installment is contingent upon the project coming in under budget. If it doesn’t, the money will be withheld, according to Miller.

Miller made the motion to assist the city and Ray Tucker, Second District, seconded it before the unanimous 5-0 vote of approval.

"We all understand that the county’s share could be reduced by $200,000 if it doesn’t come in under budget?" Tucker asked aloud.

No comment came from the city officials, but Miller observed, "I would hope they could bring it in under budget, but I also know how hard that will be considering the luck we had with that."

"We wish the Austin City Council well," said Dave Hillier, Third District county commissioner and chairman of the county board. "I know the Austin Youth Hockey Association is very anxious for the project to proceed."

No site for the new city arena has yet been chosen. At least seven different sites have been under consideration.