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Meeting Youth Needs

Executive Director Laurie Kumerow of the Forest Lake (Minn.) Area Athletic Association discusses how the association worked with local community members and leaders to develop its $4.6 million sports complex.


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In August 2008, the Forest Lake Area Atheltic Association (Minn.) will open the doors to its new sports complex, which will feature a fully enclosed indoor ice rink. The main tenants of the facility will be the Forest Lake Area Schools boys' and girls' hockey teams, as well as the Forest Lake Youth Hockey Association.


These teams previously called the Maroon and Gold Arena home. Concerns over the aging facility's structural safety, equipment, and maintenance costs were the impetus for the new sports complex. When time came to designing the new arena, the FLAAA consulted those with close ties to the Maroon and Gold Arena to not only make sure their—and the public's—needs were addressed, but to keep the construction costs within a realistic dollar range. These maneuvers were vital to the development of an industrial revenue bond issue (which revealed a satisfactory revenue-to-debt ratio), the organization of a $1.2 million fundraising effort, as well as the communication of the FLAAA's goals to the surrounding communities.


Kumerow, who also serves as chair of the steering committee responsible for the facility's fundraising, breaks down how the group addressed certain challenges they encountered to keep costs in check.


Early research. The original design of the sports complex called for $30 million as well as city subsidies to cover staffing and miscellaneous needs. For the plan to proceed, a voter referendum was needed.


However, before asking the public for financial support, the task force researched the public's opinion by hiring a firm that specializes in government initiatives. The research found that while community members felt the sports complex was needed, not enough wanted to pay for such a large project. As a result, the group restructured its plans into "more manageable phases", including a $3.2 million ice arena, which the public found appealing.


Functionality. "We wanted to keep construction costs down without compromising functionality," Kumerow explains. "For example, we planned to build walls for FLAAA offices, but are now just leaving an open space upstairs and will find used cubicles. This is actually a better solution, not just from a cost standpoint, but because it gives us more flexibility. We also received input from the manager of the Maroon and Gold Arena to help with planning for traffic flow, staff efficiencies, etcetera."


Accommodation. "We also worked with the school's athletic director and varsity hockey coaches to make sure the high school locker rooms met their needs," Kumerow says. "And those locker rooms will be dedicated to the school. We are just providing the shell and their booster clubs are building them. The school district will essentially rent that space to ensure it can remain dedicated, in addition to buying ice time."


Surface Usage. FLAAA's hockey group will be a major tenant, and other FLAAA sports will be minor tenants. The main turf users will be soccer, baseball, fastpitch and softball. We explored adding portable court surface for volleyball and basketball, but it's too expensive for now.


Communication. "We have done extensive communication," says Kumerow. "Using our Web site for updates, making sure we have newspaper stories with all major milestones, displaying donation brochures at local businesses, and seeing that our fundraising water is being sold at local business. We have an electronics recycling fundraiser with drop-offs at local businesses, and we've sent donation solicitation letters and brochures to all FLAAA families."



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