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A12-0107 State v. Wylie (Hennepin County)

Study: Rochester hockey arena may cost up to $75M

A new junior-league hockey arena in Rochester could cost as much as $75 million, and the City Council wants more information on how a public-private partnership could finesse the proposed project.

Rochester City Council members on Monday reviewed a feasibility study for the United States Hockey League facility, which could piggyback onto an existing $85 million renovation of the Mayo Civic Center downtown. The arena would be the only one of its kind in the region, according to the study.

The prospective project would dovetail with the downtown Rochester build-out spearheaded by the Mayo Clinic. Over the next two decades, the multibillion-dollar Destination Medical Center project is expected to dramatically reshape the city, plus boost its population, workforce and appeal to visitors.

A trio of early-stage arena proposals in the study range from 4,000 to 6,000 seats. Attendance for USHL games tends to hover between 2,500 and 3,500, but a bigger facility could help Rochester host higher-profile concerts and other events. Costs range between $55 million and $75 million based on the arena’s size.

With the council’s preliminary go-ahead on Monday, the board overseeing the Destination Medical Center effort will review the study, pushed forward by the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau and unnamed interested parties. Proponents will also detail prospects for a public-private partnership to advance the project.

Some council members on Monday questioned the need for another large-scale project, but the group will take its time to weigh the proposal. Council President Randy Staver told Finance & Commerce last month that sports-oriented development could add a new dimension to Rochester’s anticipated growth.

A population of nearly 111,000 and a median household income around $64,000 put Rochester on par with other cities that have USHL teams, the study shows. The league, which draws top U.S. players age 20 and younger, has 17 teams across the Midwest.

The USHL had a team in Rochester for 17 years until 2002, and blamed the downfall on poor attendance and an outdated arena — the 2,508-seat Rochester Olmsted Recreation Center, built in 1975. The USHL is more vibrant than it was back then, according to the study.

Next steps for the proposal include the selection of a preferred arena option and preliminary reviews by the Destination Medical Center board and the Mayo Civic Center Committee. Detailed financial analysis and an economic impact study would come later.

Pre-construction and design work would start in November. Work at the site would wrap up in fall 2017, around the time the Mayo Civic Center expansion is complete.


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