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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
Thousands of young athletes from across Minnesota play hockey, baseball or golf at St. Cloud's aging Municipal Athletic Complex each year, which is why leaders are pushing to expand and renovate the amenities with state funding.
Starting next month, city leaders plan to lobby legislators for $16.2 million to support a $24.3 million plan to expand the complex, part of which dates back nearly 50 years. The facility, which features two ice arenas, two baseball fields and a golf course, hosts figure skating and dozens of tournaments, camps and games, bringing in an estimated 300,000 people each year.
"This clearly rises to the level of a regional and statewide asset," Mayor Dave Kleis said. "There's a strong need for these improvements."
In the city's plan, which was presented to the community last week, 27,000 square feet of space would be added to a second level of the ice arenas with room for locker rooms, training spaces and meeting areas. The plan also includes adding on to the lobby and replacing the ice refrigeration system with a more modern, environmentally friendly one. And the Dick Putz Field would get artificial turf and new seating, locker rooms and concessions, hosting not just baseball but soccer, lacrosse and rugby.
If the Legislature approves the city's request, the remaining sum would be generated locally through fundraising, private donations, sponsorships/naming rights and the city's food and beverage tax and half-cent sales tax; taxes will not be increased. If approved, construction could be complete by 2021.
"St. Cloud is an important piece of the amateur sports history of the state," said Tony Goddard, director of community services and facilities. "We're just trying to continue to provide that service to the state."
Kleis said athletic facilities in the Twin Cities area have received state funding and St. Cloud has "done as much as we can on our own" for its complex without asking for state aid.
The city sought approval at the Legislature last year to raise its food and beverage tax to generate $6 million in part for the expansion project, but the overall bill was vetoed. This time, Kleis, a former legislator, said policymakers should support a boost to infrastructure outside the metro.
"It's a Greater Minnesota asset," he said. "And it really highlights the need for a collaborative effort."
Kelly Smith · 612-673-4141
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