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Editor's column: Bells, whistles and a sheet of ice

The regional amateur sports center will be nice whether or not it gets bonding money this year. But $4M would go a long way in drawing people here.

January 18, 2014
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

Lou Nanne is on the committee charged with raising money for athletic facilities at the University of Minnesota. Nanne, who knows a thing or two about sports in Minnesota, says the 'U' has the potential to be more competitive in the Big Ten. The only thing is, it takes money to be competitive nowadays.

Loads of it.

Nanne said the university needs, among other things, a nutrition center, a football complex, a men's and women's basketball complex and a women's gymnastics center. All this would be a product of the university's $190 million athletic facilities campaign. All this would make the 'U' more attractive to big-time recruits who love bells and whistles and shiny things.

Long story short: Success has a price tag.

The same could be said about the regional amateur sports complex that will be built at the intersection of Minnesota highways 23 and 19 in the near future. That's why Wednesday's news that Gov. Mark Dayton has recommended the project gets its $4-plus million in bonding money this year is so big.

This is not to say that the complex won't be dandy if the money doesn't come. It will be. But who wants to compete in a race behind the wheel of a new Buick when you can race in a new Porsche instead?

There is no guarantee the project will get the requested dollars. It's now wait-and-see time for the House and Senate capital investment recommendations.

If the project does score a bonding trifecta at the Capitol - governor, House and Senate - the money will come, and don't underestimate the importance of it. It would be the difference between one sheet of ice and two. It would be the difference between having concessions at the ballfields or not.

Four million smackers can buy a lot of bells and whistles and shiny things, which means the sports center would be what its supporters have envisioned for so long - a palace with two sheets of ice that teams from around the state, and from other states, can't wait to visit to compete in. These 4 million smackers, essentially, could be the difference between a palace and a place.

The same supporters who breathed a sigh of relief when Dayton's bonding plan came out Wednesday are the ones who sold the community of Marshall on the regional aspect of the sports complex, and they know that regional flavor will take a hit if the big-picture vision isn't realized. They don't want that to happen. They want that second sheet of ice. And if state bonding dollars don't come they can hear the 38 percent of the voters who didn't support the referendum in 2012 now:

"Told ya sooooo!"

But don't blame local project organizers if the bonding money falls through again. It wouldn't be for lack of effort. Indeed, they've worked too hard for too long to make this thing a reality to come up short. Besides, there is no need for "I-told-you-so's." If you're still anti-sports complex, it's time to get over it and hope for the best out of the Legislature this year.

This isn't about making the sports complex as "nice" as possible; we already know it's going to be "nice." This is about making it as attractive as possible to outsiders, just like what Nanne wants to do at the U of M. The only difference is, the 'U' wants to lure high school students to matriculate and play sports there for four years. Supporters of the sports complex just want them for a weekend or two.

But to lure big fish, you need big bait. And bait isn't cheap.



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