MCS director: facility puts city in the mix

MARSHALL – It appears the city of Marshall might have some heady competition in the future when it comes to drawing hockey teams and fans to Marshall and its yet-to-be-built regional amateur sports complex.

And a multi-rink ice facility which is reportedly closing in on breaking ground in Sioux Falls, S.D., also comes with a substantially less cost than Marshall’s – $7.7 million, compared to $12.9 million. The $7.7 million is projected to jump to $11.1 million to cover future additions such as a fourth sheet of ice, meeting rooms, and permanent seating and locker rooms, according to KDLT News.

Nevertheless, the cost differential has led some local residents to question the price tag of Marshall’s new facility.

But there’s a reason for the disparate price tags, says Marshall Community Services Director Harry Weilage. And when it comes to out-of-state competition, Weilage said Marshall would be remiss if it didn’t get in on the hockey action like bordering states are since it has become a mature market in areas not previously considered hockey hotbeds.

“From day one, we’ve known there’s been an increasing development of hockey in Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Omaha, Brookings, Watertown, and part of our selling strategy with the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission is positioning Marshall to open up that emerging market in Minnesota,” said Weilage. “Everybody’s forgotten about that part about bringing tax dollars into our state. It’s about leveling things out.”

Weilage pointed out that while the Sioux Falls facility is ice only (three sheets), Marshall’s proposed complex will include two sheets of ice that could be converted for other indoor sporting events – possibly volleyball and wrestling – as well as trade shows. Plus, it will offer athletic fields for outdoors sports such as softball and baseball.

“It’s about all the sports, not just one or two,” Weilage said.

The Sioux Falls facility, called the Scheels Iceplex (Scheels, a sporting goods store with a location in Sioux Falls, contributed $750,000 to the project), is expected to break ground at the end of 2013 and open in the fall of 2014, according to It will have three sheets of ice. The project, KELO said, is $1.5 million short of being fully funded and, like Marshall’s proposed sports complex, has a major partner in Sanford Hospital, which donated 11 acres of land.

Marshall’s facility will be paid for by a local option sales tax which was approved by the voters in November. The ballot measure passed with 62 percent of the vote. Another separate measure for a sales tax for expansion at the MERIT Training Center also passed with 60 percent of voters supporting it. The MERIT Center has already received $1.3 million from the state Legislature.

Sports facility supporters have made two separate bonding requests during the last few years for $4 million but were denied both times. They plan on going back to the Legislature for another request this year.

Besides the strong local support the complex has received from sports groups and businesses, the good news for facility supporters in Marshall is that since the last time the city was turned away at the Capitol, the project has been bumped up to No. 1 on the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission’s list of funding priorities. Marshall was designated a regional sports center in 2008, joining Moorhead, the Duluth Region, St. Cloud, Blaine, St. Paul and Rochester.

The 80,000-square foot complex will be built at the intersection of Minnesota highways 23 and 19 near the Marshall High School on about 16 acres of land donated by the Schwan Food Co.

Weilage said the sports facility will have the potential to attract new businesses – he said some have already looked into locating in Marshall – and help the city keep pace with those in other states that are getting on the hockey bandwagon.

“The question is, do you want to compete and be a part of that development, or do you want to be just pass-over land?” he said. “Either you play or you don’t play. Sioux Falls teams are not going to go to Rochester and Hill Murray tournaments if they want to play in Minnesota. The Amateur Sports Commission says (hockey is) where the money’s at. And if we do our business right there, we can start expanding into other pieces.”

Weilage said the fundraising piece for the new facility will ramp up after the city learns how it comes out on the bonding process this year. In the meantime, project organizers are lining up interviews for contractors; eight have applied so far and there are four interviews set up.

“Our energies are strictly focused on bonding,” said Weilage. “We’ll worry about fundraising once that’s over.”