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Cloquet School Board approves hockey arena contract

After some back and forth with the city of Cloquet, the Cloquet School Board approved a three-year contract with some new stipulations.

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Cloquet School Board members were unhappy with the negotiations for a new lease for the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton hockey programs to practice and play at Pine Valley Ice Arena and Northwoods Credit Union Arena. Jamey Malcomb / 2019 File / Cloquet Pine Journal

The Cloquet School Board has approved a three-year lease agreement for use of the city's hockey arenas this school year.

After going back and forth on the terms of the contract, the school district has agreed to the three-year contract that runs from 2022-2024. The school district will pay $138,808 in 2022, with costs increasing by 3% each year after that.

At the previous regular school board meeting in August, the board had approved a one-year lease agreement with the city. The Cloquet City Council voted to reject the proposed lease agreement as they had not discussed a one-year contract previously.

Both parties then sat down for further discussions and negotiations.

"Our negotiation subcommittee for the ice arena met with city administration," Superintendent Michael Cary said. "We reviewed the city’s expenses around the arena versus their revenues. They showed us what their financials look like from year to year. The city is still not able to 100% cover their expenses based on the current leases that they have."

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PREVIOUSLY: Cloquet School Board, city council continue ice arena lease negotiations The new lease agreement offered by the city for use of Northwoods Credit Union Arena charges the district $100,000 more per year than the Minnesota Wilderness junior hockey team.

Cary said they weren't able to get a better deal financially, but that city administration did agree to adding language into the lease agreement which requires the city meet with the school district to go into a "deeper dive into the overall financial picture of the arena."

School Board Chair Ted Lammi expressed dissatisfaction with the situation and voted against it, being the single vote opposing the agreement.

"You all know how I feel about it, but I do want to thank the negotiating committee for hammering out what was possibly the best deal we could get," Lammi said.

In order to cover the lease increases, the school board also approved a $1 increase to adult gate fees for hockey games.

"In talking with our activity director, he felt that we kept our adult hockey game attendance fees pretty stable for a number of years, so it’s probably a reasonable time to consider a slight increase to that gate fee," Cary said. "That increase, he feels, should likely cover most of the costs for any hockey lease agreement increases."

The increase is solely on the adult tickets and will not affect student prices. The board approved the ticket increase by a 5-1 vote, with board member Ken Scarbrough opposed.

"I’m going to vote against that. Unless there’s a way to use that fee to offset the lease levy, I can’t see that it’s worth the price of a ticket," Scarbrough said. "Our lease levy is going to cover the costs of the arena. I just want to make sure that we can get the fans there."

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Board member Dave Battaglia said he was initially against the fee increase as well, but said he figured local parents and adults could buy season passes and avoid paying the increase.

"This ends up being more of a tourist fee, because mostly it's the visiting adults who will end up paying it," Battaglia said.

Cary also mentioned that the board should be prepared to discuss raising hockey participation fees in the future. No changes are likely to be made for the 2021-2022 school year, but there could be potential changes by 2022-2023. No actions were taken on this topic at the board meeting Monday.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONCLOQUETHOCKEY
Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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