MARSHALL - The Southwest Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission's push for financial help from the state for a proposed regional sports facility in Marshall suffered a second setback Tuesday.
Minnesota House Republicans have released their bonding proposal, and not only is the original version a fraction of the size of Gov. Mark Dayton's capital budget recommendations, it doesn't include bonding for the proposed $12.9 million sports facility.
Republicans are proposing a $280 million package of construction projects that focuses on refurbishing buildings at some state colleges and universities, as well as road and bridge projects.
But, like with Dayton's proposal, the sports facility, as well as bonding for MERIT Center expansion, is nowhere to be found.
"I would say we have a better chance of getting funding through the Senate's version," said SMASC co-chairman Roger Madison. "We'll keep working on it; we have a group of people going up to the Legislature on Thursday. (Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission Executive Director) Paul Erickson continues to work on our behalf and making things happen."
Madison gave the SMASC a "50-50" chance of acquiring bonding in the House, but feels more confident in looking ahead toward the Senate's version of the bonding bill, which Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem has said would include more local projects than the House version.
Erickson has said the project has strong support from local legislators, and has moved up to the No. 2 spot on the MASC's list of priorities for state funding requests. Marshall, he said, is an ideal location for regional sports events and there are strong leadership and community partnerships to support a sports center.
The SMASC will continue to work on planning and campaigning for the sports facility this summer, leading up to November when Marshall residents will vote on a .5 percent general sales tax and a 1.5 percent "hospitality tax" on food and lodging. The .5 percent local sales tax to help cover capital construction costs for both the sports facility and MERIT Center projects received approval from the Legislature in the 2011 session. A 1.5 percent "hospitality tax" on sales of prepared food, beverages and lodging to offset operating costs of the sports center was approved in 2010.
The proposed sports center would be built near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 23 and East College Drive on land donated by the Schwan Food Co. The sports center would feature two sheets of ice which could be used for hockey or converted for other events, Madison said. Madison has said construction of the sports center could begin in 2013 and take about a year to complete. There are also opportunities for softball and soccer fields to be built nearby, he said, but those are not included in the $12.9 million estimate.
The SMASC is seeking $4 million from the state - the same amount it was denied in 2008.
"When we started on this path in 2008 we knew we would have to come up with local funding," said Madison. "The sales tax piece is one way to fund this. If the state brings some money to us, that gives us the opportunities to enhance the facility in the future. (The House bonding bill) does not create an issue where we can't move forward. We're not done asking for money from the state."
The MERIT Center is making its own bonding request of $2.5 million to the state, money that would go toward construction of a track for driver training. The MERIT Center has already received $1 million from the state for expansions, as well as grant funding.
Also left off the House proposal was $500,000 for science lab renovations at Southwest Minnesota State University. SMSU's request did make Dayton's bonding list.
District 21A House Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said while the House's bonding recommendations focus mostly on asset preservation, he'll continue to work to acquire funding for the sports complex - no easy task, however, without any local money currently set aside. Legislators pushing for local projects that don't have a funding base yet are essentially left working high above ground without a net.
"That is a hang-up,"?he said. "When it comes to bonding the first questions are, 'What is the local money, where is it coming from, are the dollars approved yet? Is it shovel-ready, how soon can this hit the ground, what involvement is there with the local community?' Those are the questions that get asked and we're trying to work around that because the local money isn't there yet."
Along with the $280 million list of projects, the House GOP proposed a separate bill to borrow $220 million for restoration of the Capitol building. Still, the two proposals together add up to much less than Dayton's $775 million bonding proposal, which he has pitched as a true jobs bill.