Community Recreation Center, 1999

Government.59.1: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 03 Aug 1999 11:43:18 CDT
We’re going to be hosting a panel and forum on the proposed Community
Rec Ctr. It will begin on Wed, Aug 11 and go through Friday, Aug 20.

Panelists confirmed thus far:

– Christy Clark, Park Board Chair
– Randy Distad, Parks & Rec Dept Director
– Dave Koenig, First Ward Council
– Scott Neal, City Administrator
– Bill Rossman, Mayor
– Kyle & Dale Snesrud, co-owners, Olympus Athletic Club

Government.59.2: Griff Wigley (motet) Tue, 10 Aug 1999 20:05:22 CDT (9 lines)
Ok, we’re almost ready to roll. Early birds might want to click on the link (at the top and bottom of every page of this topic 59) to read the Recreation Center Task Force’s final report posted on the City’s web site.

To avoid confusion, let’s refer to it as the proposed “rec center” and not by the acronym NCRC used on the city’s archives page. NCRC has been used in the past to refer to the Nfld Community Resource Center, currently under construction.

Government.59.3: Griff Wigley (motet) Tue, 10 Aug 1999 20:11:35 CDT (6 lines)
For the first couple of days of this forum, we’d like the interaction to occur solely among the panelists.

So audience members, please hold your comments and/or questions until you get the green light from your two moderately capable co-moderators, John Hatch and yours truly.

Government.59.4: Griff Wigley (motet) Tue, 10 Aug 1999 20:20:32 CDT (10 lines)
I’d like to first welcome our panelists. Thanks much for being willing to participate in this forum.

To get things rolling, please introduce yourself briefly in a short paragraph. What’s been your interest and involvement with the proposed Rec Ctr?

After each of you have made your introductory remarks, we’ll toss out a couple of questions for you to respond to… and, as always, invite you to respond to the remarks of others.

Government.59.5: David Koenig (dkoenig) Tue, 10 Aug 1999 23:17:08 CDT (18 lines)
Greetings! I’m David Koenig. I represent the First Ward on the City Council and am the Council liaison to the EDA. My involvement with the Rec Center has come of late in that I have been asked to add some of my financial market experience to the evaluation of the project.

I can’t say that I have a strong leaning either in support or opposition to the proposal as it stands. In fact, I hope that all of the council members feel the same way. This forum is going to help to guide my vote, so I hope that the involvement of the Northfield e- community is high!

As a note to the non-panelists, the City Council has set a tentative date of September 20th to make a decision on the Rec Center. Up to that time we are all to gather input from the community. While the date could be pushed back if more time is needed, it is a date to which we hope to be able to adhere.

Government.59.6: Griff Wigley (motet) Wed, 11 Aug 1999 13:00:27 CDT (7 lines)
Hi David, good to have you here… and I’m glad to know that you’re open to being influenced on this issue. This kind of forum can often be helpful when there aren’t hard and fast opposing positions.

While we’re waiting for the other panelists to introduce themselves, can you let folks know what else is planned by the council for gathering community input on the Rec Ctr?

Government.59.7: David Koenig (dkoenig) Wed, 11 Aug 1999 22:01:29 CDT (23 lines)
As I understand it, each of us is to gather feedback through whatever mechanisms are available. Other than through the NCO, I don’t know of any formal venues that are planned. In part, I think this is because the options for financing the facility are not fully known to every council member.

In the First Ward tonight about 25 residents gathered to learn more about the Rec Center and other city projects. From this meeting and from subsequent conversations I hope to hear whether people are concerned about the price tag and about what type of programs might not be “fundable” if we issue $15 million in debt to pay for this facility. I’d also like to find out if it is the opinion of residents that this is one of those “must have” projects.

One resident asked tonight that the city provide a clear financial statement showing the tax impact of a bond issue or alternative financing mechanisms. Using this information, they could compare and contrast a Rec Center with things like additional school levies, school buildings or other city projects like a Park and Recreation Bond. By having such, they would be better able to make a choice on cost versus benefit.

Sounds like a good idea!

Government.59.8: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 12 Aug 1999 05:36:06 CDT (7 lines)
Thanks, David. More on financing in a bit.

I spoke to all but one of the other panelists yesterday and they all had pretty darn good excuses for being tardy. I expect they’ll all get here today.

Thanks, audience, for your patience.

Government.59.9: Randy Distad (rldistad) Thu, 12 Aug 1999 08:30:47 CDT (17 lines)
Hi! My name is Randy Distad, I am the City’s Parks and Recreation Director. Glad to finally be able to post comments in the web cafe.I forgot my password, I guess memory loss comes with age. At least I came blame it on age now that I turned 40.

Anyway, my involvement with the Rec Center to date has included some preliminary involvement with meeting with Duane Kell from Ankeny and Kell and Associates on the conceptual design that was completed in the original proposal. Was able to provide some input in design features for the conceptual rec center plan that was developed in 1997-98. I was also a member of the rec center task force that Mayor Rossman appointed. I appreciate Griff hosting a forum on this topic and too like David Koenig hope that we get a lot comments and feedback from the public in regards to whether or not we should move forward with this project as well as what components that people would like to see included in the rec center project if it does move forward.

Government.59.10: John Hatch (jhatch) Thu, 12 Aug 1999 08:49:42 CDT (5 lines)
Welcome Randy. Good to have you with us here. Am I correct in assuming that Parks and Recreation would have some part in the eventual administration of such a facility? Reading the Task Force Report, it sounded like a lot of discussion centered around how it should be administered and by whom.

Government.59.11: Scott Neal (scott) Thu, 12 Aug 1999 13:27:39 CDT (23 lines)
Hello. My name is Scott Neal. I am Northfield’s City Administrator. I have been involved in the proposed Rec Center project from the beginning. I was also the chair of the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Community Recreation Center Task Force, and the author of the Task Force’s Final Report to the City Council.

Before coming to Northfield I participated in the construction of a community recreation center in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa that was built by a group of local citizens as a non-profit institution operated by the City’s Department of Parks & Recreation. I was also involved with the construction of a new outdoor family aquatic complex in 1996, just before I came to Northfield.

Building community recreation facilities of any kind is tricky because they are difficult to finance. On a macro-scale, look at the stadium issues in the Twin Cities. Whether it’s a new pool or a new Twin’s stadium, the politicial dynamics are tough because the capital funding options are limited.

But, IT CAN BE DONE! I’m happy Grff put this forum together so we can discuss ideas, options, and possibilities. Thanks.

Government.59.12: Kyle Snesrud (kylesnesrud) Thu, 12 Aug 1999 16:54:21 CDT
Hi everyone, I’m co-owner of Olympus Athletic Club, along with my father, Dale.

We were both on the community rec ctr task force. It was a lot like Christmas shopping from a catalog. Everybody’s wish list without responsible thinking about paying for all the amenities.

In 1994, we Snesruds purchased the old “Total Fitness Club”. In the business process, we have marketed, promoted, and priced our membership so that we could pay our bills, our taxes, and make a statement to our community about health and wellness.

Our basic objection to a community rec ctr is that “the users,” people who will really benefit from the facility, are not the only ones who are going to be paying for it. There are portions of this project that NEED to be funded publicly or financed by the school district, colleges, etc. namely, the ice. Every other part of the project should be paid for by the users.

Our club will be doing a feasibility study and designing a facility that we feel will adequately meet the needs of the community but that also will not be a burden to the taxpayers. Hopefully, the community will be willing to support our effort and work together to fund and design that portion of the facility that will need public financing.

Government.59.13: David Koenig (dkoenig) Thu, 12 Aug 1999 19:27:15 CDT (10 lines)
Kyle: Thanks for chiming in. Most of us on the Council have seen the task force report and are very interested in whether a private organization like yours could do a better job of providing some of the ammenities. Can you give us a sense of what you plan to offer and your early guess as to what memberships would cost?

Scott: Can you give us a sense for what the City would expect annual memberships to be?

Government.59.14: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 13 Aug 1999 09:18:58 CDT (30 lines)
Hi Scott and Kyle, good to have you both here. Mayor Bill and parks board chair Christie Clarke should be here Real Soon Now.

In the meantime, I thought I’d post a few friendly tips about forum protocol for all participants here, both panelists and audience:

– avoid lengthy posts, ie, anything longer than a screenful or two. It’s the equivalent of standing up in a living room conversation and giving a lecture. If you do have a long piece, eg, an article, put it in a “hidden” post, explaining in a separate post what it’s all about.

– use lots of white space, ie, paragraph returns, to make your posts easier for others to read. Paragraphs should be no longer than 8-10 lines, preferably shorter…. even if it violates what you were taught in grammar class.

– This forum could become a little debate-oriented, so just in case there is some controversy, here’s some gentle but firm tips:

* avoid personal attacks on others who disagree with you.

* avoid sarcasm

* use people’s first name when referring to someone else who’s participating here, especially when disagreeing with them. Avoid saying, for example, “John seems to be the type of guy who always….” It’s insulting. So try to talk (write) as if others are right here in a room with you. “John, you seem to think…”

I’ll assess reasonably small fines to offenders. 😉

Government.59.15: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 15 Aug 1999 21:51:41 CDT (9 lines)
Moderator’s Note:

We’re off to a bit of a slow start, but rather than waiting any longer, I’d like to open things up for audience participation. There are about 25 people who’ve signed in thus far. I’ve put up a lightly edited transcript at:

and I’ll send out another NCO-News late on Monday.

Government.59.17: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 15 Aug 1999 21:57:20 CDT (13 lines)
Kyle and Dale, the rec ctr report seems to address your private sector involvement concerns. Are you guys satisfied with this resolution? If not, why not?

“Resolved: The proposed recreation center should be owned by the City of Northfield. Elements of the recreation center, such as, but not limited to, the ice and pool facilities, should be managed in the public*s interest by the City, while other elements of the project, such as the fitness facilities, should be managed by a responsible private sector partner.”

“This motion was adopted by the Task Force on a vote of 11-3, with one abstention.”

Government.59.18: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 15 Aug 1999 22:11:06 CDT (20 lines)
Audience members, David asked in post:7 “I’d also like to find out if it is the opinion of residents that this is one of those “must have” projects.”

Is it a “must have?”

Here’s the list again: two sheets of ice; leisure swimming pool; regulation competitive swimming pool; diving well; double gymnasium; walking track; fitness facilities; adjoining outdoor playing fields; and meeting & banquet room facilities.

Personally, I don’t see any of those as strong “must haves” in part because they’re all currently available in town. This would be a great “nice to have” project, IMHO.

But I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. What seems to be missing in the various rec ctr documents is the written rationale for the project. I’m sure it’s written down somewhere, so could one of the city officials post it, either here on along with the other docs on the city archives page at ??

Government.59.19: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 15 Aug 1999 22:28:00 CDT (13 lines)
Another document that would be really helpful to have posted on the city’s web site would be the results of the parks/rec survey of 300 residents by Decision Resources, Inc.

The Nfld News article on July 28 is all that’s been published, far as I know. It said that 70% suppported the rec ctr, but that there was considerable negative feedback on ice arenas… and that 41% would prefer an outdoor pool if the current pool was replaced. 33% preferred an indoor pool.

Randy, you were quoted as saying “the opposition was out against the two indoor ice arenas.” But since this was a survey, not a vote, that doesn’t seem to make sense. Can you say more about that?

Government.59.20: Randy Distad (rldistad) Mon, 16 Aug 1999 09:05:41 CDT (17 lines)
What I meant to say about the opposition being out against the two indoor ice arenas was that the people who were surveyed seemed to indicate that they were opposed to two indoor ice arenas. I am not sure how many current users of the Northfield Arena were included in the 300 people surveyed. Since the question was posed as two indoor ice arenas, we still don’t know if people would favor one indoor ice arena rather than two. Perhaps this was a weak part of the survey in that there were not any follow up questions to see why people were either opposed or in favor of certain components of the rec center. In my opinion, people who were surveyed may have thought that two ice arenas were more than what the community needed.

I would invite citizens to stop down at the ice arena and take a look at the current facility. It is approximately 25 years in age, is very energy inefficient, uses an antiquated ice making system and does not have the capability of making year-round ice. In my opinion, the request for a new indoor ice facility is not based on want, but rather on need.

Government.59.21: Scott Neal (scott) Mon, 16 Aug 1999 11:11:42 CDT (29 lines)
The proposed Rec Center project (the one that was analyzed by the Rec Center Task Force) was derived from the projected needs of the various user groups who would use the facility.

The annual operations costs of the proposed facility, things such as utilities, custodial supplies, personnel costs, mowing, snow removal, etc, would be funded from the annual operations revenue.

The annual operations revenue came from two basic sources. The first source is the sale of annual memberships to people. A typical family membership for a Northfield resident was projected to cost $250 – $275/year. The other sources of revenue for the facility is the rental of facility space, most notably ice, to third parties, such as the Northfield Hockey Association or St. Olaf.

This facility was proposed as a facility that you must pay to use. That’s where the annual membership fee comes in, or there was also a dailiy user fee for the casual user.

The debt service for the proposed facility was to be repaid from some other source that operational revenues. This means some sort of new tax (i.e. – es tax) or an increase in an existing tax (i.e. – property taxes).

It is possible, of course, to fund such a facility completely through user fees. If we did that, a more typical familiy membership for the facility would be in excess of $700/year. This figure seemed to the Task Force to be way too high for the facility to be publicly funded or managed.

Government.59.22: Scott Neal (scott) Mon, 16 Aug 1999 11:16:17 CDT (11 lines)
In a comprehensive recreation center project, there are parts of the facility that make money and parts of the facility that don’t make money. The “fitness” parts of the recreation center, which includes things like weight training, aerobics, etc, are typically good revenue producers. Operating ice and swimming facilities are not.

Using the revenues from one part of the facility to help cover the costs of another part of the facility is sort of an internal subsidy, but the total costs for the facility can be covered through the total revenues generated at the facility. We’ve seen other comparable recreation centers in the Twin Cities metro area that have done it.

Government.59.23: Randy Distad (rldistad) Mon, 16 Aug 1999 15:22:08 CDT (20 lines)
Prior to coming to Northfield, I worked in New ULm, MN. The City of New Ulm built a community rec center in the late 1970’s. Let me make some personal observations about how the community of New Ulm feels about its rec ctr. It was a strong focal point for the community. There wasn’t hardly a night that went by that there wasn’t some program or event going on that drew people from the City as well as the surrounding area to it. It would be hard to imagine the City without it. In fact the City valued the Community rec ctr so much, that it received approval from the State Legislature in the 1999 Legislative Session to hold a referendum on a 1/2 cent sales tax that would allow the city to expand the existing community ctr. I have heard that they are considering adding another sheet of ice and gymnasium to the existing rec center.

I am somewhat surprised that there hasn’t been more public support for such a facility here in Northfield. Since the proposal for a new rec center was made, it has actually been very quiet from people either opposing or favoring a rec center. I am interested in hearing how others feel about the possibility of a community rec ctr being built in Northfield.

Government.59.24: Christie Clarke (cclarke) Mon, 16 Aug 1999 19:58:08 CDT (19 lines)
Hi, i’m Christie Clarke finally logging in. Sorry for being so tardy. I’m currently the chair of the park and rec board and have been a member of the board for about 7 years. I’m thinking that the reason that it has been so quiet about the rec center is that northfield went down this road before in the early 90’s. A great deal of energy and publicity went into it but because it was so ambitious it failed. This could explain the lukewarm reception that i have seen. It may take a while to warm up to the idea again.

This city is having some serious growing pains. Being on the board has educated me about the shortage of ice time. We definitely need more rinks for the kids. I see it as a top prioity if a rec center is eventually built.

Nobody has mentioned the location of the rec center on st. Olaf property. I feel that there are better locations in town. A more centrally located spot that is walker and biker friendly would be the ideal. Greenvale ave. Would see more traffic than ever.

A rec center will be a tremendous asset to the community. I just hope that the city can hang in there and see it through to completion.

Government.59.25: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 06:13:52 CDT (43 lines)
Welcome, Christie! Glad you could make it.

Randy/Scott, maybe you didn’t see my requests: can the city post these documents on its web site?

A) the survey results

B) the rationale for the project

We’re just starting to get little pieces of the rationale for the project here but what’s needed is the whole shootin’ match! For example:

– The current ice arena can’t make ice year round? That’s news to me! It used to, because I played geezer men’s hockey in the summer when I first moved to town 24 years ago. But my kids never played hockey and I quit playing. So we need to know what’s happened to the arena. Plus, we have energy inefficient school buildings that are older than 25 years. Why is it bad for an ice arena to be that old? (I’m stealing a line from our Governor’s arguments against public funding for a new stadium – the Metrodome is only 17 yrs old. His alma mater, Roosevelt High School, is 75.)

– If there’s a shortage of ice time, we need some details. Carleton doesn’t have a hockey team and didn’t St. Olaf recently dropped their program? So to the average uninformed citizen (like me!) it seems like one arena is plenty.

– The Northfield Gymnastics Association built their own facility for their kids. We need to know why it’s not possible for the Northfield Hockey Association to build (or help build) a facility for their kids.

– The High School and both colleges have competition pools and diving wells. We need to know why these not adequate for the town.

– All the public schools and both colleges have gymnasiums. We need to know why these not adequate for the town.

– The Northfield Ballroom has meeting and banquet facilities. We need to know why these not adequate for the town.

Isn’t there an already document that addresses these and other questions?

Government.59.26: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 06:18:23 CDT (9 lines)
Randy, your personal observations about how the community of New Ulm feels about its rec ctr. was the first I’ve read that gives me a little of “The Vision” of what a rec ctr. could mean for Northfield. I actually started thinking, “hey, cool, this could be something that draws all segments of the community into contact with another, sort of like Bridge Square does on Thursday nights in the summer.”

Is there a Vision Statement for this project? We’ve got data, and I’m whining for more rationale, but more Vision would be very good.

Government.59.27: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 06:30:22 CDT (14 lines)
Christie, I echo your concerns about the proposed site not being too accessible for walking/biking. But note what Scott said in his final report. Do the arguments against a location near the high school make sense to you?

“There was very little support for the proposed site near the Northfield High School. The opposition to this site came from the adjoining neighborhood, from those concerned with the impact on the wetland’s environment of the site, and from those who desired a site with access to adjoining outdoor playing fields. The site selection was also influenced by the offer from St. Olaf College of the St. Olaf North site for a “nominal fee”. The most important observation I have for the City Council on this subject is to take notice of the rejection of the proposed High School site.”

Government.59.28: John Hatch (jhatch) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 08:14:22 CDT (16 lines)
Are there any estimates on what proportion of the community might use such a facility? I don’t think you could build anything that everyone would use; the best you could hope for would be something that would appeal to a substantial majority.

I, personally, have disliked competitive sports since high school, which has been a long time and which is unlikely to change. I also don’t usually enjoy group recreational activities. And I question whether I would want to commit the money or the time required to use such facilities. That’s just me; but I doubt that I’m the only person in the community who probably wouldn’t see the inside of such a center if it was built.

I guess my interest in the proposed center had a lot to do with it’s proximity to the new hospital/medical center and possibilities I saw for them to work together to improve individual and community health.

Government.59.29: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 08:34:01 CDT (23 lines)
Location. Location. Location.

I think behind the upfront capital construction financing of a rec center, its location seems to be the most vexing issue. The macro- issues faced in siting a rec center are not too different than those faced with siting some other large public facility.

If you put the facility into an “infill” location within the currently built community so that it can be close to walkers, bikers, and people in general, you will upset the equilibrium of someone’s existing neighborhood – and take it from me, they won’t like it.

If you want to avoid neighborhood hassles, you can choose a “greenfield” site on the edge of town, but that puts you further away from the very people you are trying to serve.

Personally, I prefer an infill site somewhere closer to the center of the community. But go find one! That’s a challenge. I’ve looked. If there are ideas on potential infill sites, let me know and I can probably tell you why it was dimissed as a potential rec center site.

Government.59.30: Larry DeBoer (dutch2me) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 10:00:08 CDT (11 lines)
Scott, why not position the rec center where the Middle School is, next to Central Park? Supt. Kyte has already begun plans to get a new Middle School and as routinely as Northfield voters pass school tax excess levies, it will surely go through. Since the school district already ownes the land south of the High School all the way to Rainbow Arena, they could put the Middle School there and open a space in the center of Northfield for a rec center.

The two issues will be discussed at great length, which is normal for Northfield, so the two construction projects will probably be ready at the same time – some 3 to 5 years from now.

Government.59.31: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 13:21:44 CDT (1 line)
Great idea, Larry!

Government.59.32: Randy Distad (rldistad) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 14:36:45 CDT (75 lines)
Griff, the Community Park and Recreation Survey can be found on the City’s Web site under City Hall and then click on Community Park and Recreation Survey Results. I am not astute at being able to create a link for people to access the City’s Web site from this forum. I will leave that to you the computer wizard to do that.

In regards to your other multitude of questions Griff, I would like to address some of the questions/issues that you raised.

In 1998 St. Olaf Men’s Hockey was proposed to be dropped until St. Olaf Alumni got wind of it and raised money to support the program. In fact we have been told by St. Olaf that Womens Intercollegiate Hockey is coming probably within the next year. This also increases the demand for ice time for practice and games at the current arena. We have also added girl’s high school hockey which means additional practice and game times that need to be scheduled. The Northfield Hockey Association saw an increase in the number of participants in the younger levels of hockey since it started an in-house program last year. All of this adds up to more and more demand for ice time. While we have attempted to try and schedule the NHA youth hockey practice times at more appropriate times like early evening rather than early in the morning or late at night, it has created a real crunch on ice time. It has meant that the boys and girls high school hockey teams have had to adjust their practice times to include some mornings, which is not the most desirable times for practice for high school kids either.

As far as available pools and gymnasiums, I have been hearing rumors to the effect that both St. Olaf and Carleton are looking at limiting the community to having access to their facilities. I have heard that the new student rec center that Carleton is building will be only for Carleton students and that the community will not have access to it. The high school gymnasiums are very difficult to schedule as school events come first. Typically gymnasiums are available one night a week during the winter (Wednesdays) and on Saturdays. You then have to work with other user groups such as the Northfield Basketball Association, Boy Scouts, etc. to squeeze in the different programs outside of the regular school teams.

As far as pools, I think the top priority would be for some type of a leisure pool. The existing outdoor pool is over 40 years of age. The wading pool was closed in 1998 because it could not meet certain MN Health Dept requirements for pools. In the winter you have the swim team that has priority for the use of the h.s. pool. The Parks and Recreation Department has expanded our learn to swim program during the school year that has affected practice times for the Northfield Swim Club. We have to schedule swim lessons for eight o’clock and nine o’clock on weekday evenings because there are not other times available to squeeze in the lessons.

In regards to the Northfield Gymnastics club, I say hats off to them for taking the initiative for paying for the construction of their own facility. However the cost to construct a Ice Arena in my opinion is going to be much greater than what it was for the Gymnastics Club to construct their facility. I also believe that the costs to maintain and operate an ice arena are going to be greater than what the Gymnastics Club costs are to operate and maintain their facility. The City hasn’t met with the NHA and talked about what kind of commitment that they would be willing to make in regards to assisting with construction costs or commitment for purchasing ice time.

As far as year-round ice, the cost to run summer ice would make it extremely expensive for users to rent the facility. As it is in the fall if we get a warm up outside, the ice quality suffers inside. It becomes very soft which is undesirable for hockey players. When the ice becomes soft, it creates a safety issue as the heavier players tend to leave ruts in the soft ice. Department staff then have to do some considerable maintenance work just to make it safe for younger skaters to use the ice. We had such a situation last year and the ruts that were created actually went down to the bare concrete under the ice. This was extremely unsafe.

Griff I know I broke the golden rule on length of comments but wanted to address your questions/issues.

Government.59.33: Randy Distad (rldistad) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 14:43:57 CDT (8 lines)
In response to Larry’s idea about having a rec center at the Middle School site while a good location, you will have an issue with parking. Also I am not sure about size of the parcel that the middle school sits on. Not sure what size of a rec center it could feasibly handle. Also probably need to look at what impact it might have on Central Park as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Christie Clarke, since she lives in this area of town, could maybe address why we should or shouldn’t locate a rec ctr at the middle school site.

Government.59.34: Randy Distad (rldistad) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 15:06:45 CDT (14 lines)
I would like to comment on John Hatch’s remarks about who would or wouldn’t use a rec center. The Parks and Recreation Department currently attempts to get the public involved in the park planning process. If a rec center were built, I believe that our Dept. would like to use the same planning process for soliciting ideas from the public for new programs, events and activities that are for a variety of users. I don’t believe that the rec ctr would be built just for competitive sports or group activities. Competitive sports and group activities would only be two programming aspects that the rec ctr could be used for. Certainly we can do more than that if a rec ctr is built. Since it is proposed to be a public facility, we would want to offer a variety of programs and activities that would interest the entire community and not just people who enjoy competitive sports or group activities.

Government.59.35: Randy Distad (rldistad) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 15:42:27 CDT (31 lines)
One more comment and then I will stop. Griff mentioned that creating a vision for the rec ctr would be useful. Some of my visioning statements for a rec ctr would include:

To create for citizens an opportunity to explore new leisure programs and activities.

To enhance the quality of life in Northfield through exposure to activities that increase health, wellness and sense of community.

Provide opportunities that fit into their schedule for children and adults to play.

Provide opportunities for citizens to develop a healthy lifestyle through participation in programs, activities and events held at the community recreation center.

Increase the opportunities for youth and adults to become involved in healthy and positive activities rather than destructive and negative activities.

Increase opportunities for intergenerational interactions.

To develop a facility that promotes the opportunity for the entire community to gather in a common area rather than allow the community to become fragmented (sense of community).

I know I have more vision statements that I could think of if given more time. I will stop for now and hopefully people will react to some of my vision statements about how a rec ctr could benefit the community.

Government.59.36: Kyle Snesrud (kylesnesrud) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 17:13:02 CDT
David K, in response to your question about projected cost of membership, it’s expected to be in the neighborhood of $33-35/month in a new Olmpus facility, including rec pool, lap pool, and gym space… 42,800 sq. ft. total.

I remember Terry Just from Maple Grove saying that only 75% of operating funds needed is realistic in usage fees for a community rec ctr. Given that premise, why doesn’t the city concentrate its resources on the ice demand?

Dale and I can’t see the reason for the city to build anything but just an ice arena with two sheets of ice, given the title 9 requirements plus the colleges demand.

Government.59.37: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 17 Aug 1999 20:09:35 CDT (20 lines)
First thing: Larry, you got me! I’ve never given a thought to the future former (maybe) Middle School site as a Rec Center site. It has not been analyzed for this purpose, as far as I know. It’s a pretty good idea. My fear with this idea, like other potentially attractive infill sites, is that it might hit a lot of opposition from the adjoining neighborhood. But, you never know. I’m sure you’ll get some response to this.

Kyle Snesrud gave a good rationale about why the City of Northfield, and many cities across the United States, are involved in community recreation center projects. Access. Kyle estimated that a monthly membership (he didn’t say whether that was a single or family membership) for a new Olympus athletic center might be in the neighborhood of $33-$35/month.

You know, that’s not bad, but it’s still almost $400/year. That amount limits access for some in the community. Is it too much for the products they provide? I’d say no. It sounds reasonable to me, but we found on the Rec Center Task Force that some members thought that $250/year was too high!

Government.59.38: Nancy Johnson (njohnson) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 01:07:10 CDT (63 lines)
The middle school site is only one city block. The adjacent Central Park is city property, not school property. I suppose if the city wanted to use both the park and the school property for a center, then there would be two blocks, but would the neighborhood want to give up the park?

Anyway, even with two city blocks, that probably would not be enough space for the center, even without parking. Well, maybe if you went high-rise.

I will always regret that we were not able to build the community center that was in the works in the early 1990’s. The combination of the Senior Center with the recreational facility was great. The seniors would have been able to take advantage of the facilities during the school day when it would be less busy. There was a walking/jogging track and an accessible pool (ramp, water temp warmer than the high school pool) that would have been very nice for seniors. Our site was about 22 acres (if I remember correctly) by Raider Drive, where the new bldg. is going up that will house the Senior Center, CAC, etc. That site got smaller when additional housing was put up. Oh well, that is all in the past. It would have been/would be a real asset to the town. We had good support from the board of the Senior’s group. I could go into why this place never got built, but I won’t.

The pool issue often comes up…..Indoor or outdoor? The Westin Harbour Castle (hotel) in Toronto does a nice job with this. It is large as hotel pools go, and includes a Jacuzzi. The pool is indoors, but the long south side has walls that are all glass like a sun room. Doors open to a small sun deck on that side which faces Lake Ontario and there are large plants indoors and out. The north side is the same with the glazing, but it opens up to a LARGE deck that includes a tennis court and a basketball area. This is all on the fifth floor of the hotel! The outside doors were standing open every time we were at the pool. They had plenty of deck furniture for lounging in the sun and more chairs around the pool. With the sun and the breeze blowing through, this pool had a nice indoor/outdoor environment. Of course, the doors could be closed when it is cold outside, and yet the atmosphere in the pool area would remain tropical. With the SkyDome within walking distance, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they have produced a nice indoor/outdoor swimming facility.

Regarding ICE: Carleton has club hockey, but not MIAC hockey. They do use the arena. When our son was as young as 9 or 10, his hockey team had practices scheduled at 6 a.m. on school days and 9 p.m. on school nights. This was not good for kids, but it was when the ice was available.

It is my understanding that the college facilities are for the students who are paying $20,000+ per year to attend those schools. I don’t remember ever seeing either college post open swims, gyms, or other facilities in the newspaper for general public use on a regular basis, and I don’t expect to.

I think Northfield should have a recreational facility. This is a quality of life thing. If it isn’t possible to include the surrounding area in funding construction, then have different user fee structures for residents and non-residents of Northfield. I’m not real big on the site north of St. Olaf. You could get there, but there isn’t a decent collector street to connect that property with much of Northfield.

Enough for now. This is too long – sorry!

Government.59.39: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 05:27:49 CDT (10 lines)
The Community Park and Recreation Survey results (PowerPoint slides of pie charts) is at:

Slides 20-24 deal with the Rec Ctr.

Randy, I’d seen that before but I thought there might be a written summary of some kind. Plus, many of those slides are unreadable because the type is too small. Is there a narrative report that the consultants submitted with the slides?

Government.59.40: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 05:38:11 CDT (11 lines)
Randy, thanks for the rationale re: ice, gyms, and pools. It’s very helpful. Anyone want to take issue with Randy on his reasoning?

Also, tis good to hear elements of “the vision thing” that are in your head.

But I’ll ask a third time:

Is there anyplace (besides Randy’s head!) where the rationale and vision for the Rec Ctr exists, ie, written down?

Government.59.41: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 05:48:09 CDT (11 lines)
Scott, I’m pretty sure that the Olympus membership fee of $35/month would be for a single, not a family.

Does anyone know why the YMCA rec ctr facility built in Faribault 20+ years ago failed? I’m assuming that it couldn’t make it financially without public support. It’s now run by the City’s parks and rec, correct? How’s it doing?

Kyle, if the YMCA couldn’t make a go of it in Fbo (which is twice the size of Nfld once you factor out the college students) why do you think a similar facility in Nfld would be successful?

Government.59.42: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 05:56:39 CDT (9 lines)
Nancy, thanks for your comments. You used lots of paragraph spacing so the length wasn’t a big problem.

I assume that the residents around Central Park would NOT want to give up the park for a rec ctr parking lot. I sure wouldn’t. But they live with the school faculty/staff parking on the street now, as well as buses, plus plenty of evening activities that brings parents’ cars to the school. Wouldn’t that be acceptable to continue with a rec ctr, ie, street parking?

Government.59.43: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 06:07:38 CDT (8 lines)
Moderator’s Note:

– There are just under 30 people following this conversation, even though just a few post comments.

– I’ve asked the Nfld News to write a rec ctr article about this discussion. As has been the case in the past, they may use comments posted here as quotes for the article.

Government.59.44: Scott Neal (scott) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 06:40:49 CDT (25 lines)
I had a chance the other day to listen to St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman field calls from the public on Minnesota Public Radio about the proposed Twins stadium project he wants to bring to St. Paul. Our rec center project is much smaller, but the political dynamics are similar.

Should the City (i.e. – The Government) use public money to finance the construction of a recreation center? Why not let the private sector do the job? That’s always been my personl first choice, and I’ve said it to the Snesruds many times. If the private sector can build a recreation center sized for the entire community – have at ‘er.

The problem with a rec center project, however, is the same problem you have with a giant stadium, the private sector doesn’t want to do without some sort of participation from The Government. The Government then typically demands a low fee structure to maximize public access, but the privates see a low fee structure as forgone profits. Its messy.

If The Government gets involved, then it must determined who will pay The Government’s share. Mayor Coleman is proposing a new 1/2% sales tax in St. Paul. That was also the proposal here, but is sank link the proverbial lead balloon. Any ideas? Where the does money to build the thing come from?

Government.59.45: Larry DeBoer (dutch2me) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 07:37:29 CDT (15 lines)
Scott and Randy, why not do what ever city does when space is unavailable – go up and down. If the Middle School site was viable, and you tear it down, why not build a 3-5 level sub-basement for a parking ramp. And the current building is already 4 stories high. Put the ice and pools on the ground level and move the track, fitness area and auditorium to the upper levels.

We should remember there is also a downtown parking discussion to put in a parking ramp north of the Grand extending all the way to the library. These parking slots would be only one block away from the Middle School site.

But the real barrier, as Scott has stated, is the FUNDING. Government should not be involved in projects clearly identified as private sector business.

Government.59.46: Toby Barksdale (toby) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 11:49:26 CDT (4 lines)
Nobody has mentioned the space where the current public pool is. That’s an “infield” location and is larger then the Middle School / Central Park space. (It would displace a football field, but since I don’t care about football, move that someplace else)

Government.59.47: David Koenig (dkoenig) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 11:57:31 CDT (41 lines)
Larry, I agree with you and suggested looking at rehabbing the Middle School to Scott a while back. I think that it slipped his mind.

As a neighbor of the Middle School and Central Park, I don’t want to see Central Park lost. In fact, it may not be useable for such a purpose as I believe that an attempt to turn it into softball fields several years back was resolved when the courts ruled that the park belonged to the citizens of Northfield, not the City. Christie can correct me or fill in the details as she was involved in saving the park and leads the effort to keep the park community-based. Anyway, any attempt to tear up Central Park will surely meet stiff opposition.

The Middle School represents a draw to our neighborhood. Home prices are higher because of this and, consequently, tax revenues are higher. If a Middle School is built in an open field, there are few properties built nearby that will benefit and thus there will be little addition to the tax base. Further, if the Middle School moves, property values near the current site may fall or may not rise as quickly as they might have otherwise (a personal concern) and tax revenues might fall or not rise as they might have otherwise (a city concern).

I hope that the School Board opts for a rehabilitation of the school, but if not, I hope that its use is one that provides an equal “draw” to the area. Some aspects of the Rec Center might fulfill that desire. Still, there are many concerns with this approach as well, but its feasibilty should be considered.

Kyle, do you have an idea about where you would like to build your facility? Is that something that you could share publicly?

Scott, how much of a factor does your hope for a local option sales tax play in your support of this?

Toby, you may have a good idea as well, given that the City is considering a Recreation Bond to build a new pool. Memorial field was given to the School District, I believe, with some strings attached. It may not be a clean and easy issue to resolve, but it does seem to be worthy of consideration.

Scott, did the committee look at this?

Government.59.48: Toby Barksdale (toby) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 13:06:30 CDT (3 lines)
Access to a recreaction center is important. Most of the users will be kids. Many of these will have to walk, skate, or bike to it, so we need to consider how they can do that.

Government.59.49: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 14:47:15 CDT (18 lines)
Hi Toby, good to have you join the discussion, too.

More site questions:

1) what about the old Northfield Greenhouse property, where the Seniors were originally going to build their center? Didn’t that go back to the city as part of the Nfld Resource Center deal? Is it big enough?

2) was the area south of the current ice arena considered, where Ray Cox is now putting up an industrial park? or was it too late by the time the task force began looking at sites?

3) Instead of putting in additional stores as part of the Target Mall, why not put the Rec Center there?! We could sell them the naming rights to the facility, ie, The Target Rec Center! And share the acres of parking space! It could start a trend across the country! It could unite the divided community! Hallelujah!

Government.59.50: Nancy Johnson (njohnson) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 18:12:22 CDT (14 lines)
Trinity Church bought the old Northfield Greenhouse property, so that is not available.

There is potential with the current outdoor pool/football field site. That site might be a little small, it depends on exactly what would be included, and how it would be designed. A rec center is a traffic generator, but there are benefits for nearby homeowners as well. The football field could be relocated to property owned by the school district near Bridgewater School.

The middle school is 2 to 3 stories high, not four. Maybe that building could be remodeled to a combination housing/office/whatever? It would be nice to remove the 1953 addition. It is so ugly, and cuts off College Street.

Government.59.51: Bill Rossman (war) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 20:35:02 CDT (22 lines)
Hi. Just arrived. Looks like you’ve all got everything pretty well under control. I’m Bill Rossman, Nfld. Mayor. Just a few comments. Several years ago, when the School District took a stab at a new Middle School, we had a reuse committee look at potential options for the existing school. The initial premise was that the District would “sell” the school to the City for a nominal fee, and the city would then assume responsibility for maintainence, etc. and develop new uses for the building. At that time, we looked principally at using it for social services, senior center, etc. Most of the uses are the ones that will be housed in the new NCRC.

However, we did discuss other options. One of the most interesting was to use the school as a condominium development, possibly with some small retail associated with it. The advantage, of course, is that the building is so close to downtown, and would yield both property taxes and convenience to downtown shopping and services. Carleton, at the time, was also seeking additional space for offices, etc. and felt that they could temporarily use the “new” part of the building. I’m, however, in sympathy with ultimately (if it again is offered to the city) to eliminate the newer part, and concentrate on the historic building. I also favor keeping Central Park as a community park. We did, also, talk about using the site for a rec center, but parking and building space requirements made it a difficult use.

Government.59.52: Bill Rossman (war) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 20:51:32 CDT (19 lines)
OK. The rec center. Do people want one. It appears that they do, if we believe the survey. Is it a “must have”. Probably not. But then again, many of the amenities we have here are not “must haves,.” but are things that improve the quality of life for Northfielders. Bike trails, developed and open space parks are examples…skateboard parks….These are not necessarily “must haves”. If you were to say we can build a $15MM rec center, and it won’t cost the citizens anything, they’d say “Great, go ahead”. Unfortunately, no one can say that.

I would say we need some of the features afforded by a “rec center”. I think we need more ice, both colleges will have women’s hockey as well as hockey clubs and teams and Nfld Youth Hockey continues to grow, and ice times for youngsters (not a 5 a.m. or late at night) are important. Indoor swimming, year ’round would be great….and you’d have this wonderful place where citizens can meet and interact.

It seems to me that the biggest question is what will the city, the private sector, and the citizens at large, be willing to pay to have and maintain the facility.

Government.59.53: Kyle Snesrud (kylesnesrud) Wed, 18 Aug 1999 21:57:58 CDT
Another point I’d like to make: would the rec ctr really be used by the entire community?

The reason for my question is people who are working with minority youth groups find it very hard to integrate these kids into the mainstream of youth activities.

We open our facility one evening a month to this segment of the population because these are kids who really need a community rec center. But you can bet that they would not be welcome by the mainstream.

Mainstreams have the ability to pay their way for any type of rec center benefits they receive. We private owners can serve the entire community by opening up to the special nees of any minority group.

Government.59.54: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 05:57:24 CDT (16 lines)
Hizzoner! Thanks for joining the discussion, Bill.

You highlighted the need for indoor swimming and ice sheets. And earlier in post:22, Scott said:

>The “fitness” parts of the recreation center, which includes
>things like weight training, aerobics, etc, are typically
>good revenue producers. Operating ice and swimming
>facilities are not.

So how might this work in a partnership with a private company like Olympus? The city builds and maintains the ice arenas and pool, and as part of the same complex, the private sector builds and maintains the fitness center? The citizenry would be taxed less to build the facility but taxed more over time to maintain it. Is that a reasonable tradeoff?

Government.59.55: John Hatch (jhatch) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 07:40:12 CDT (31 lines)
Was there a mention earlier about the sports medicine center also having some part in the building? I can see benefits to having as many groups as possible cooperating in one center, but there are also the problems of getting differing groups to cooperate. Still that’s getting closer to something I would support.

One of the earliest and best studies I’ve read on this sort of thing, was done in a working class area of London back between the Wars. They built a pool, gymnasium, general meeting areas, large lounge. Charged a nominal fee. People would meet there to play cards or watch their kids play. One requirement was that all family members filled out some questionaires on nutrition, family medical history, interests, etc. and everyone got an annual physical exam, administered there. The increase in general health and life expectancy in that community was staggering.

Not the sort of thing that we can bring off in this day and country, of course, but interesting all the same.

Still, if I were going to do one thing to improve the ‘draw’ of Northfield and the general quality of life, I would try to emulate San Francisco or Stuttgart Germany which both have parks stretching for miles through the heart of the city. Both those cities have lots of other cultural and scenic offerings but in both cases I believe the parks are their heart.

Northfield has a lot of great small areas and some larger green areas around the colleges. I’d just like to see more open space; I’ve seen what it can do for a city.

Sorry about the long post. I’ll shut up and go get some sleep.

Government.59.56: Scott Neal (scott) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 07:45:56 CDT (30 lines)
The Middle School has been examined and reexamined for opportunities for a second use if the School District should leave it. In our files at City Hall we have a formal written document prepared by local architects describing the challenges of reuse.

The Middle School wasn’t considered in the initial examination of sites, because it is simply not available. It’s a School, and until the community passes a big new bond issue, it will be a school.

BTW, I don’t think central park would need to be developed if the Middle School site were to be adpated for a rec center. The building could be more vertical than horizontal. This would a challenge for the architects, but it could probably be done. I’m not sure this is a very feasible discussion option though until the District decides it is actually going to move the Middle School somewhere else.

The former Greenhouse property adjacent to Trinity Church is now owned by the City. It was not considered for the Rec Center because it was not available at the time the analysis was being conducted. It might be available now, but the zoning for the property is not correct, and I have a strong feeling the adjacent neighbors would be pretty upset about it.

South of the current Ice Arena was considered, but was dismissed for a couple of reasons. first, at the time of the analysis, in 1997, it was expensive property, in the neighborhood of $80-90K/acre. Plus, we knew from studies its underlaying geology wasn’t very good for a large building. Also, it looked like land that ought to be kept, if possible, on the tax roles, instead of devoting it to yet another tax- exempt use. We have lots of those in Northfield already.

Government.59.57: Scott Neal (scott) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 07:53:52 CDT (17 lines)
David Koenig: I don’t have a “hope” for a local option sales tax, as you put it. I have a personal belief that IF this project is to proceed, the local option sales tax is the most appropriate and most effective funding vehicle.

I personally doubt that the citizens of Northfield will approve a large general obligation bond issue for a new rec center. I am not confident that someone could raise 10 or 15 million dollars privately for a community rec center. If this were a viable private sector option, why hasn’t the private sector stepped forward to do it without the City’s support? There might be some innovative financial solutions to this problem, but I haven’t seen them yet.

I’ve put a couple hundred hours of my personal time into trying to figure out how to untie the political/financial knots that make a community rec center project so elusive. I feel like there ought to be a way to do it, but I’m not real optimistic.

Government.59.58: Randy Distad (rldistad) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 10:34:43 CDT (15 lines)
I would like to challenge the location notion that the rec ctr does not necessarily have to be located in the center of town. Afterall the center of town continues to change as it grows. What might be considered on the periphery or edge of town today could very well eventually become the center of town in the future. Certainly access is important. There are ways to connect a rec ctr if it were not located in the center of town. Making sure there is good street, sidewalk and trail access is critical. A good example is Chaska and where they built their community rec ctr. It was on the edge of the community and certainly not next to the center of Chaska a.k.a. the downtown. After it was built, the development that occurred around the rec ctr I would venture to guess increased dramatically. I would bet that if someone said we need to move the Chaska community rec ctr or get rid of it the community would be in an uproar. Anyone want to respond to this?

Government.59.59: David Koenig (dkoenig) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 13:27:49 CDT (4 lines)
Scott and Randy:

What are your thoughts on the Memorial Field area? We know that this would require the cooperation of several groups, but could that work?

Government.59.60: Kyle & Dale Snesrud (kylesnesrud) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 14:22:57 CDT
We believe that it is time in this discussion to disclose that we currently are working with a local architect and have drawings of a facility that would include an aquatic area, gym, racquetball, aerobics, weights and weight training.

We sincerely believe that this would meet all the needs of our community with the exception of ice.

We also have a business plan that we believe will look realistic to investors.

Kyle and Dale

Government.59.61: Scott Neal (scott) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 15:55:15 CDT (10 lines)
David, I like your idea of considering Memorial Field. I think siting a rec center in the Memorial Field area would be great! I must disclose that I live only a couple of blocks from Memorial Field. I have never understood the neighbor resistance to the rec center. I’d love to live near it!

The Memorial Field site was considered during the recent rec center effort. The site was rated as a good one, but it didn’t reach the top of the pile because most of the site is currently in use. That may not always be true though.

Government.59.62: Scott Neal (scott) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 15:59:24 CDT (10 lines)
WOW! If Olympus Athletic Center can do a private recreation center that serves the health and recreation needs of the community while earning themselves a profit – I say “Good Work, Men”. I wish you the best with your project.

You should probably get my planning and zoning staff involved in your project soon just to make sure your site and proposed land use will meet planning & zoning requirements.


Government.59.63: David Koenig (dkoenig) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 17:04:55 CDT (4 lines)

Kyle, can you tell us the site of your proposed project or is it still in negotiation stage?

Government.59.64: Christie Clarke (cclarke) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 21:57:13 CDT (15 lines)
Central park is not in the realm of possibility for development. There is a landmark decision on the books called Headley vs. Northfield School Board, 1949, which states clearly that it cannot be used for other purposes. So put that idea to bed! Making a multi-level rec center is intriguing. I’d like to see a concept plan for that. Personally I would prefer to see the old building become some type of housing unit. And for sure tear down the new part.

Memorial field has possibilities. How about the big field behind Sibley school where the future water treatment facility is to be? I do agree with Randy that a rec center can be located a bit farther out and the city will just grow around it.

But if Olympus builds it’s own rec center then we are talking about a totally different concept now. I will stay tuned to see what happens next.

Government.59.65: Nancy Johnson (njohnson) Thu, 19 Aug 1999 22:05:07 CDT (13 lines)
Chaska’s Community Center was built adjacent to public secondary schools (If I remember right, the high school and middle school), which was nice. They have a great site on the top of the hill overlooking the Minnesota River Valley, with wonderful views.

Northfield residential growth seems to go in two general directions – a big fan out going East-Southeast-South, and a more narrow area of growth on the north between Cedar and the railroad tracks. This is about the only way it can go because of the land owned by the colleges and resistance to growth in the Waterford area. The other area of residential growth is in Dundas. If you consider this, the Memorial Field/outdoor pool property would be a good place to put a facility.

Government.59.66: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 05:30:35 CDT (28 lines)
Kyle and Dale, I don’t know how much you want to reveal here since this is a public forum. But I’m happy you have announced that you have a serious plan in the works. It sounds from Scott’s response in post:62 that you should contact city staff ASAP. Scott, hasn’t the Council scheduled some kind of vote on this issue for the Sept. 20 meeting? If it does, this new “wrinkle” could certainly impact the Council’s deliberations.

If the Olympus land/zoning requirements are met, then the next step would be to get financing. Scott noted earlier in post:57 that “I am not confident that someone could raise 10 or 15 million dollars privately for a community rec center.” But if Olympus is not going to to include the sheets of ice or a competitive swimming pool in their facility, the cost would be far less than that. So financing would seem a much more likely possibility.

Soooo, let’s assume for a minute that the Olympus project moves ahead and that they don’t build it at St. Olaf.

A) how important would it be to place the ice arena next to their facility?

B) Would the other sites we’ve discussed (including St. Olaf) be appropriate for an arena-only facility? For example, might the neighborhood around Memorial Field be more likely to be opposed to an arena-only facility?

Can anyone think of other issues that this brings up?

Government.59.67: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 05:52:13 CDT (21 lines)
Randy, I agree that development would likely occur around the rec ctr should it be located on the edge of town. But in many cases, isn’t that how sprawl has become a dirty word in this country? It’s easier to build further out, where land is cheaper, parking is ample, and cars are the only way to get around.

Sprawl is in part why there’s so much opposition to Target. And why some think the hospital’s new location on St. Olaf property north of town is a sprawl issue. It’s going to create lots of development and infrastructure requirements in a “remote” area.

I remember when relocating the public library was considered when it was ready for renovation or demolition a few years back. It was very complicated to orchestrate its expansion downtown and parking was certainly an issue. But what a jewell of a building it is, and I think most people would agree that it’s great to have it on the edge of downtown.

Anyway, I for one would not vote for public funding of a rec ctr at the St. Olaf site until I was convinced that all other closer-in locations were genuinely unfeasible.

Government.59.68: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 05:58:25 CDT (5 lines)
I spoke with Senator Tom Neuville last night down at Bridge Square (Community Nat’l Bank hosted their big wing ding – great fun!) He’s evidently had some discussions with Kyle and Dale in the past and has some opinions on the sales tax funding option. He’s got Internet access from home now and said he plans to join this discussion.

Government.59.69: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 05:58:38 CDT (5 lines)
Today is supposed to be the last day of the forum. But it might be worth continuing a little longer.

Any of the panelists willing to extend the life of this web forum through next Monday?

Government.59.70: Scott Neal (scott) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 10:27:46 CDT (13 lines)
Senator Neuville and Representative Tuma hold the key to any and all scenarios involving local option sales tax. The State Legislature must grant approval to the City to have a local vote on the issue. Just a vote. Unless the State Legislature authorizes us to vote on the matter locally, we cannot have a vote, or impose the tax. We have discussed this itme before with Senator Neuville and Rep. Tuma and neither of these gentlemen were very excited about the idea of Northfield citizens voting on this tax. Therefore, it’s a dead issue. The Legislature is not going to authoirze a local vote on a local option sales tax in a district where the two localll-elected state represeatives don’t support the referendum. I didn’t say the tax. Remember, all you can ask the State Legislature for is the right to vote on the issue and decide it locally.

Government.59.71: Scott Neal (scott) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 10:28:19 CDT (1 line)
Griff, I’m willing to stay engaged in the forum until next week.

Government.59.72: Randy Distad (rldistad) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 15:19:52 CDT (17 lines)
I would like to continue this discussion and not end it today.

I would also like to comment on the size of the rec ctr. What if it were scaled back to include one sheet of ice, a double gymnasium, walking track and an indoor aquatic facility? I am not trying to go against what the task force has recommended, but if we don’t think that a $15 million dollar facility can be financed why not try to finance a smaller facility for say maybe $8-10 million with the idea that other components of the original concept plan could be phased in at a later date. Maybe we solicit donations and gifts over the next several months and see how close that gets us to the $8-10 million. Then if there is not enough in donations, we go back to the community for the remaining portion in the form of a special G.O. Bond Referendum. Lets say that we can raise $4 million in donations and gifts, would the community be willing to fund the remaining $4-6 million through a G.O. Bond? I would like to get some thoughts on this approach?

Government.59.73: Toby Barksdale (toby) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 16:03:33 CDT (5 lines)
I wish to comment on posting 59:53 which asserted that minorities would not be welcome. “But you can bet that they would not be welcome by the mainstream.”

This does not match up with my experience.

Government.59.74: Kyle & Dale Snesrud (kylesnesrud) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 17:22:19 CDT
We were somewhat concerned about revealing that we have engaged an architect because it only creates more questions than it answers. The land is in negotiations.

Ice is something that no private entity could provide unless there were some kind of grant or community added support somehow. It’s much like schools, police, etc. that the total community has to support.

The reason we are headed in this direction is that we truly love our business and our community. Look at our Mission Statement.

If we do not build, and the community does not build a rec ctr, you can bet that within 5-10 years some outside investor or maybe some local people will build an upscale facility that would make the current Olympus struggle. We are the ones that truly want to provide this amenity to our community.

Yes, we will be contacting Scott and the planning/zoning staff within a couple of weeks.

Government.59.75: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Fri, 20 Aug 1999 20:43:32 CDT (12 lines)
I was wondering what the panel thinks about outdoor recreation, which I understand from surveys is a high priority for Northfield. (I guess I’m thinking of things like parks and trails, also facilities like the neighborhood skating rinks, which I enjoy immensely.)

Is there any concern that a rec center building could result in diluting resources so outdoor recreational facilities might not be properly developed and maintained? Is there some kind of assurance that there is a long-term budget for outdoor recreational projects, or even a budget line in any bond issue for those kinds of needs?

Government.59.76: David Koenig (dkoenig) Sun, 22 Aug 1999 21:08:31 CDT (10 lines)
Okay by me to continue.

This notion of the Memorial Field area playing host to a new outdoor swimming pool and a scaled-down Rec Center is interesting. Again, I know that there are lots of hurdles that may prove overwhelming, but it seems like something that might be more attractive than funding a $15 million site that can’t generate enough revenues to cover its own operating cost.

Griff: Care to ask Dr. Kyte to join in?

Government.59.78: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 23 Aug 1999 05:34:15 CDT (6 lines)
Dave, I’ll be up in the cities all day today, but if I see him at the Blue Monday this morning, I’ll ask him! Also, I talked to both Sen. Tom Neuville and local retailer Rollie Jacobsen over the weekend to see if they could join us here today. Both said they’d try.

In the meantime, this forum will carry on today till midnight tonight.

Dave, I’ll be up in the cities all day today, but if I see him at the Blue Monday this morning, I’ll ask him! Also, I talked to both Sen. Tom Neuville and local retailer Rollie Jacobsen over the weekend to see if they could join us here today. Both said they’d try.

In the meantime, this forum will carry on today till midnight tonight.

Government.59.79: Rollie Jacobsen (raj) Mon, 23 Aug 1999 06:07:27 CDT (15 lines)
Hello, Sure seems like lot’s of thought has gone into this discussion. A couple of random observations that come to my mind:

1) I’m anxious to hear what Kyle & Dale will have to propose.It will be interesting to learn what the private enterprise approach is to this need.

2) I’d be cautious about adding a sales tax to goods and products in Northfield. I wouldn’t want to do anything that would make people think twice about not doing business locally. I feel that we should keep the retail playing field as level as possible with our local neighbors and the companies using those brown trucks that come to Northfield.

3) As a neighbor of the Memorial Field area, I’d support its use as a location for the Rec. Center.

Government.59.80: Scott Neal (scott) Mon, 23 Aug 1999 15:50:08 CDT (9 lines)
Thanks Griff and NCO for hosting this forum.

Building a community recreation center is a tough project in towns of our size and smaller. While I didn’t hear/read anything in the foum that would put this project immediately over the top, it sounds like there might be some interest stirring in the private sector to provide comparable facilities/services.

Best of luck!

Government.59.81: David Koenig (dkoenig) Mon, 23 Aug 1999 16:35:16 CDT (25 lines)
I have to say that I’m coming away with a similar feeling to what Scott expressed.

While there were 30 or so people in this group, another 25 or so at a First Ward meeting seemed simlarly interested, but not overly excited by the prospect of a new Rec Center.

I try to continue to get input from the community over the coming month and note that I did receive one enthusiastic call at home in support of a pool/ice rink facility.

I’m leaning towards the following based on the input I have received so far:

If the Memorial Field area is an option and the Snesrud’s are coming through with their own plan, we should begin consideration of the feasibility of an indoor/outdoor pool complex and one sheet of ice at Memorial Field. I still don’t know if this would be something feasible or desireable, but if there isn’t a groundswell of support for a large Rec Center, it’s hard for me to consider advocating such an expense.

I’m still open to your thoughts……

Thanks Griff!

Government.59.82: Nancy Johnson (njohnson) Mon, 23 Aug 1999 16:46:02 CDT (8 lines)
I have to imagine that many people are hesitant to get too excited about such a project, only to be disappointed (again) when it doesn’t get built. Perhaps because of my involvement in the community center project of the early ’90’s, people come up to me with comments about it – regret that we didn’t have such a facility in our community now, and various “if only” remarks. It’s like a child getting excited about a trip to Valleyfair, only to have it cancelled. The next time the child will hesitate before getting too excited.

Government.59.83: Tom Neuville (tneuville) Mon, 23 Aug 1999 19:26:47 CDT (44 lines)
It was interesting to read all of the comments. This type of forum will be useful as people get to know more about its existence.

Generally, local option sales taxes have been justified by other cities, on the argument that the proceeds are going to be used for a facility that serves a regional area. Some very bitter fights have occured between the Rochester legislators and the legislators representing surrounding areas and whose citizens shop in Rochester.Traditionally the first few local option sales taxes were used to fund convention centers,hospitals,etc. Recently, more requests have been made for the local option sales tax,and the legislature has developed criteria for when local governments can even request the tax.

Northfield is not what I would consider a regional shopping center. Most of the local sales tax would,I suspect, be paid by Northfield citizens and shoppers within a 5-10 mile radius,ie. the same people who would be the likely users of the rec. center facility.

I do believe that the local sales tax would harm some Northfield business and would put those business in a competitive disadvantage to other business located in nearby cities.

From a political standpoint,I have not taken a public position either in support of, or in opposition to the referendum for a local sales tax. However, I have told Scott Neil and others that they should not represent to the public that I am in support of the proposal. Early on in the planning of this project,it was represented that I had agreed to introduce a bill for a local sales tax referendum. I had not.

Before I would agree to carry such a bill in the Minn. Senate, I would have to be satisfied that the project was reasonable in size and scope; was supported by a broad coalition of Northfield citizens;could not be developed in the private sector; or financed by revenue bonds or user fees in lieu of sales tax. There may be other factors that I have not even considered yet,since I have not been involved much in the planning disucssions. I must admit that my bias is to oppose the introduction of a bill that would increase the taxes of the constituents I represent. The proponents of the local sales tax have the burden of proof on the issues which I described above.

I apologize for the length of this comment. (p.s. to Nancy Johnson–it’s nice to see that you made it safely back to Northfield from Mackinaw Island where we last spoke about 2 weeks ago.)

Government.59.84: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Mon, 23 Aug 1999 20:37:55 CDT (4 lines)
I am also concerned about a local sales tax for the reasons Rollie expressed above.

Government.59.85: Toby Barksdale (toby) Mon, 23 Aug 1999 23:18:16 CDT (30 lines)
I don’t like taxes either but I just adore “free” public facilities. I like using those parks and playgrounds all over town; and I like driving on nice smooth roads; and I’ve enjoyed sending kids to school here without having to pay tuition.

I brag everywhere about the nice rest areas our Interstates have. When I stop in Oklahoma, I’m very proud that my license plate says Minnesota.

As a poor kid, I was especially happy that I lived in a place where the schools were (apparently) free, and there were no tolls on the roads, and no charges to use to public library. I went skating in an open-air and free rink. There was no music and no attendants but it was never closed either.

Some people are wealthy enough to have their own swimming pools, heated even, but a better deal for most people is to pay a buck when they want to swim. Even $365 for swimming every day of the year is eclipsed by the cost of a private pool. (So far this year I’ve probably spent twenty dollars on it, and I haven’t had to handle chlorine or backwash a filter even once.)

Perhaps a sales tax isn’t the best choice. Sales taxes are regressive, don’t cha know. An income tax is the fairest way: do we have such an option?

Mind you, I’m very negative about using tax money to build a stadium for a commercial enterprise like a professional football team. But for a community facility charging only enough fees to break even, I say let’s go for it!

Government.59.87: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 24 Aug 1999 05:59:33 CDT (11 lines)
Rollie and Sen. Tom, I’m delighted to have your input here as the forum winds down.

I’ll keep the forum open a little longer in case anyone wants to respond to this sales tax issue.

BTW, I did see Charlie Kyte yesterday, and he said he’d try to get in here to post. He did say something to the effect that he’s not opposed to considering the use of Memorial Field for a rec ctr, since it would be within the guidelines originally stipulated in the donation of the land.

Government.59.88: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 24 Aug 1999 09:52:20 CDT (17 lines)
I’m glad that Senator Neuville has had a chance to review the comments in the forum and even to say a few words about local option sales tax.

As you should surmise from his comments on local option sales tax, he has set a fairly high threshhold for his support of such a tax. I’ve known this for quite awhile now, I’m glad that he has shared this with every publicly.

Tom, I’m not critical of your stand on this issue, except to the extent that your position stunts our ability at the local issue to actually decide the issue for ourselves. I am not confident that Northfield citizens would impose this tax on themselves (and their neighbors and tourists), but it seems almost undemocratic for Northfielders not to debate and vote on it themselves. I understand your thoughts taxes, and would not (and have not) represented them any other way.

Government.59.89: Scott Neal (scott) Tue, 24 Aug 1999 09:57:00 CDT (19 lines)
The City Council has established a decision date for this issue of September 20, 1999. I believe it is the intent of the City Council to decide whether or not to go forward with the recommendation of the Rec Center Task Force.

No. The Council will not have all the information they need to make this decision. No. The City Council will not have analyzed every combination and permutation of features and finances of this project.

But, a decision must be made about how much more time and energy our organization is going to dedicate to this venture. Discussing and analyzing a concept like this isn’t “free”. We have a finite amount of time, energy, money, and attention. If we spend those resources on this concept, we crowd out other projects, ideas, and concepts.

Absent a more defined financial scheme for the capital construction of the facility, I do not see this project going forward – in the current environemnt. I wish it weren’t so, but that’s my view of this project in the short-run, anyway.

Government.59.90: Bill Kelly (bke) Tue, 24 Aug 1999 11:18:03 CDT (41 lines)
My usual narrow-minded response begins with a rhetorical question, “How are we going to finance a Community Recreation Center?”

I see four means of financing a center. First, the center could be financed through private donations. In that way those benefitting from the Center – particularly those using the center – would finance its construction. Since the center would be a public facility, it would be up to the City of Northfield to maintain it. In view of the City’s abysmal record of maintaining buildings, there could be an effort to insure this facility is maintained.

Second, the center could be taxpayer financed. That way we would find a way to determine the center has become a public good, or we would raise rivalry by declaring that “community X” is financing a center, or we would declare we are digging deep “for the children” as it seems we can justify anything – even some of Carol Browner’s idiocy “for the children”.

The last two methods would include combinations of the first two. The maintenance problem would apply to all.

Now, let’s ask the rhetorical question, “Who needs the Center?” One look at the plans – a huge majority of the center is dedicated to hockey rinks and swimming pools – that our two colleges and our beloved school district need the center, particularly to provide for Women’s Hockey.

A real question follows, “Why, then, is the Center financed by the smallest tax base in the area?” Well, Independent School District 659 is “saving” its bond push for a new middle school and the current attempt to bail out the District and neither college wants to waste its endowment on something so uneducational as a hockey arena.

So we, as good residents of this special place and as those who appreciate the many benefits we get in this community are supposed to pony up again as a repayment for the many benefits we have garnered.

It’s the Third Way. The way of Men like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Paul Wellstone. The defining sentence of the Third Way is this, “Take what you wish and send the bill to the other guy. After all it’s either your right or it’s for the children.”

Government.59.91: Nancy Johnson (njohnson) Wed, 25 Aug 1999 00:42:49 CDT (13 lines)
A community recreation center is about providing a range of opportunities for the entire population, making Northfield a better place to live.

Do I ice skate? Yes.
Do I play hockey? No (but I’ll watch it).
Do I swim laps? No.
Do I enjoy a swimming pool? Yes (not too cold).
Do I chaperone a youth group for open gym? Yes.
Do I play noonball? No.
Do I hope to be active for many years to come? Yes.

How about you? It’s your choice. What are your choices?

Government.59.92: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 26 Aug 1999 10:06:52 CDT (9 lines)
The panelists have been thanked and released from their responsibility to check back in here for further commenting.

But we’ll keep the topic open for informal discussoin.

Thanks to everyone who visited and contributed.

Final attendance: 37
Number of different people posting: 16