Gallatin County Commission approves advancing ice arena plans
Gallatin County commissioners agreed Tuesday to move forward with plans for a year-round ice arena at the fairgrounds, though it could be five to seven years before the rink is finished.
Commissioners voted to allow Finance Director Ed Blackman to solicit bids for up to $1.15 million in bonds that the county would take out for the Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association.
BAHA will be responsible for paying back $912,000 of the loan, while the fairgrounds will owe $283,000.
The fairgrounds will use the money to pave the parking lot east of Haynes Pavilion, which houses the current ice rink. The fairgrounds will also pay for improvements to the north entrance of the fairgrounds and pave a road and walkway to facilitate travel through the area.
After examining two years of BAHA’s financial statements, Blackman told commissioners the group has “good current cash flow” and should have no problems paying its estimated $61,000 annual payment.
He said the arrangement is similar to what the county did for Gallatin Mental Health when commissioners agreed to take out a bond to construct Hope House — an in-patient mental health facility.
Rob Pertzborn, adult director for BAHA, said the group is “highly confident” it will be able to make payments. He noted that the group raised more than $1 million to expand Haynes and recently raised $75,000 with its “gloves off” fundraiser.
In the event BAHA could not make its payments, the building will belong to the county and could be leased to other groups.
But that’s unlikely, Pertzborn said.
The hockey association has about 300 current, dues-paying youth and 500 adult members.
“We’re in good shape today,” he said. “We just finished our best year ever. But we can’t grow the program.”
Commissioner Steve White asked if BAHA has had to turn skaters away.
“Absolutely,” Pertzborn said.
With a new sheet of ice, BAHA expects youth players to increase to about 500 and adults to 700.
And about 850 community members — including Montana State hockey, the Ice Dogs, Eagle Mount and public skaters — will have more opportunities to skate.
When there were two ice rinks in the area, Bozeman’s figure skating club numbered about 150 kids, but it has dwindled to about a dozen.
“A bit of a dormant program will flower again,” Pertzborn said. “The new ice sheet is already filling up.”
But White said voters voiced concerns over why a new arena at the fairgrounds will succeed when the Valley Ice Garden that closed about 10 years ago couldn’t.
“The next best thing to the Ice Garden is two sheets of ice nine blocks off Main Street,” Pertzborn said. This project is a “scale version” of the Ice Garden.
Fairgrounds manager Sue Shockley and county treasurer Kim Buchanan also spoke in favor of the project.
Buchanan said her daughter just played in out-of-state tournaments against teams that still had ice to practice on, but her daughter’s team has been without ice for a month and a half.
Shockley stressed the arena will serve the entire community, not just hockey players. Haynes hosts a “huge” learn-to-skate program for 3- and 4-year-olds and figure skaters also use the rink.
“It’s not just about hockey,” she said.
White and Commissioner Joe Skinner supported soliciting bond bids, but were cautious in saying they haven’t approved it yet. They want more financial information from BAHA before moving forward.
Gallatin County Commission to consider ice rink proposal
JODI HAUSEN, Chronicle Staff Writer - Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2013 12:15 am
The Gallatin Ice Foundation is gliding closer to getting a year-round ice arena at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.
“I’m optimistic about it,” Gallatin Ice Foundation president Matt Kraska said Wednesday.
Gallatin Ice Foundation’s development director Jane Burns said the group is still calculating the proceeds from its first fundraising event earlier this month, but money wasn’t the only benefit from the night.
“More important than the money we raised, we got people in the room really excited about the project,” she said.
The Gallatin Ice Foundation is the fundraising arm for the Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association and other rink users.
Though nothing financial will be finalized next Tuesday, Gallatin County Commissioners will consider giving Finance Director Ed Blackman authority to seek out bond bids amounting to a maximum $1.15 million to pay for the first phase of the arena.
If approved, the county would take out the bond on behalf of BAHA and the fairgrounds, which will both be responsible for paying back portions of the 20-year loan.
“It’s a loan,” Kraska emphasized. “The county is taking out a bond that will be paid by the user groups. All they are doing is securing funds for improvements to the fairgrounds.”
BAHA will be responsible for about $912,000, while the fairgrounds will foot about $238,000 of the loan, Blackman said.
He reviewed two years of BAHA’s financial records, proposed fee increases and the group’s financial forecast.
The club appears to be in a good shape to make payments, Blackman said.
BAHA asked the county to take out the bond because the group would not be able to get a 20-year commercial loan and at such low interest rates.
“We’ve looked at this from every angle, and we feel this is a financially responsible decision,” Kraska said.
Blackman also said that by piggybacking on BAHA’s loan, the fairgrounds would be able to make improvements it wouldn’t otherwise be able to pursue.
The first phase of the arena project includes paving the parking lot east of the existing ice rink in Haynes Pavilion, constructing a 36,000-square-foot pavilion adjacent to Haynes, moving the Haynes entrance to the northeast side of the building and improving the Oak Street entrance to the fairgrounds.
Once the rink is built, BAHA will give the building to the county and lease it back.
Haynes, which is only open in colder months, is “completely full from 6 a.m. to midnight” each day and “there are activities we aren’t offering,” Kraska said.
BAHA has over 700 members. And with skaters who play pick-up games at lunchtime, for example, Kraska estimates about 1,000 people play hockey at Haynes.
Groups like Eagle Mount that provides recreational activities for people with disabilities also use the rink.
Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposal at their regular public meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. They meet in the community room at the Gallatin County Courthouse, 311 W. Main St. in Bozeman.
Jodi Hausen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2630. Follow her on Twitter @JodiHausen or on Facebook at Jodi Hausen, journalist.
County commission to hear recommendations for ice rink loan
If commissioners approve the bond, folks with the Gallatin Ice Foundation say they’ll be able to start fundraising for step two of the process.
“I’m hopeful the commissioners have the information they need and that the finance director has the answers to present. We will go forward with a good recommendation,” says Gallatin Ice Foundation Development Director Jane Burns.
Burns says the Gallatin Ice Foundation is excited to be a part of improvements to the fairgrounds.
“Seeing the fairgrounds become much more of a gem within the community and also being able to expand and improve our programs to youth and our other rink users. We have Eagle Mount, school groups, perhaps more learn-to-skate and getting more youth involved in skating activities, both figure skating and hockey,” explains Burns.
She also mentions fairgrounds and rink users will be responsible for paying back the loan, if approved, not taxpayers.
Gallatin Ice Foundation is proud to present this short piece on the ‘Raise the Ice Barn’ project. Created to provide insight into who we are, who we serve, where we’ve been and where we’re going, we hope you’ll find it enjoyable as well.
Programs through the Bozeman Public Schools, Eagle Mount, MSU, Bozeman Figure Skating Association, Bozeman Icedogs, and Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association currently use our ice and all are turning away new skaters from our over-capacity rink. The new facility will improve and increase Eagle Mount and school usage as well as offer the community even more ice activities.
For more on the project, including information on donations and other assistance, visit gallatinicefoundation.org