Northfield Ice Arena may not be pretty, but voters Tuesday indicated they’re not desperate to replace it, at least not with a $21 million civic center.
A referendum to impose a half-cent sales tax in Northfield and Dundas, plus a property tax in Northfield, to pay for the majority of the proposed Cannon River Civic Center, failed Tuesday. The results were emphatic enough, as 55 percent of Northfield voters said “No,” while 45 percent said “Yes.” And in Dundas, 51 percent of voters said “No,” while 49 percent said “Yes.”
The civic center proposal was to build a $21.2 million community arena on 7 acres of land donated to Northfield Hockey Association in the southwest Northfield commercial district just north of the Dundas Dome. The current arena, which the Northfield Ice Arena Advisory Board said is sub-standard and unable to accommodate a second sheet of ice, would have been sold by the city. Proceeds were to help fund the new facility.
Now, hockey, skating and city leaders will need to decide what’s next for an aging ice arena that may work well enough for its purposes now, and is fast becoming outdated and increasingly inefficient.
It’s believed that $6-7 million could likely keep the building going for the next decade or so, but even that would likely need to come out of the pockets of local taxpayers. The Northfield Ice Arena Advisory Board could offer up an alternative plan for a new building, but leaders say the gifted land, that would’ve come with the civic center, has an expiration date.
In the lead up to Tuesday’s referendum, supporters of the project talked up its potential benefits, noting a study, which found hockey tournaments in the new building could bring between $1.3 million to $1.8 million in economic activity to the community annually. They noted the civic center would serve more purposes than just hockey and skating, including fairs, car shows, events, concerts, galas, etc.
Parks and recreation leaders also said that 30 percent of the Northfield and Dundas sales taxes would have gone to those cities’ budgets, potentially enhancing the two communities’ ability to provide quality public spaces.
But detractors said the benefits of the proposed project to the greater community were not obvious enough. They noted Northfield has several event spaces already, and a new civic center was not specifically called for in the city’s strategic plan.
Others simply expressed disinterest in taking on tax burdens for an amenity they were unlikely to use with regularity.
The ice arena topic will likely head back to the Northfield City Council and/or the advisory board. The issues of an aging and little-more-than-adequate facility aren’t going anywhere, but area residents made it clear they’re not interested in a that big of an investment.