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City council, 518 school board talk ice arena funding

No final decisions were made Thursday night, but the District 518 Board of Education and the Worthington City Council appear poised to partner in some fashion on building a new ice arena in the city.


The boards met jointly for about an hour and fifteen minutes Thursday. One funding scenario proposed by Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson would have the city contributing $10 million, the school district another $10 million and a capital campaign $4 million to the proposed project. These are based on estimates received from the firm ICS, and school board and council members agreed they should work to learn more about what precisely those costs would include and how they could be varied.


Worthington City Councilman Chad Cummings spoke of his support for a new arena and stressed that while he’s not “anti-hockey,” he believes it’s important the new facility be a multi-use space – essentially a new events center that can also have ice. Cummings added his belief that community leaders need to look at Worthington as a regional center when considering ways to improve the city.


Among the relevant topics of discussion Thursday was whether any new money should be put into the current Worthington Ice Arena, which has an ice system that has already lasted more than 10 years beyond its expected duration. Having two sheets of ice would be an advantage, it was agreed, but one question to consider would ultimately be costs for a new two-sheet arena or a new one-sheet facility while also retaining the old arena.


School board member Matt Widboom made the suggestion of dedicating $8 million as well as land toward the new ice arena project, with the remainder of the funding coming from Robinson’s suggested sources. School board member Steve Schnieder agreed with that idea, but the school board opted to not make any final decision until a Feb, 7 budget work session.


City Councilwoman Amy Ernst suggested that Nobles County – which has already opted out of the proposed project --- be re-approached once hard numbers and potential contribution allotments have been set. That’s based on the notion that the new facility would benefit the entire county and region, not just Worthington.


Bedford Industries has already offered $2 million toward the new facility.

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