Bids on Vadnais Sports Center made public

The final three bids to purchase the ailing Vadnais Sports Center were made public on Monday, Sept. 30 in a public notice to bondholders from US Bank, the Center’s trustee.

The sport center was built in 2010 through bonds issued by the Vadnais Heights Economic Development Authority for $26.5 million. After three years of continuous financial woes, Community Facilities Partners -- the nonprofit that owns the facility -- put the sports center on the market with an asking price of  $13 million in July.

The sports center houses two regulation hockey rinks with seating for 1,300 spectators, locker rooms, a 100,000-square-foot dome with 1.5 full soccer fields, three batting cages, a 100-meter track, two volleyball courts, concessions, a conference room, offices and an attached sports bar.

Ramsey County’s bid was the lowest of the three -- coming in at $10,552,200 -- about 40 percent of what the 200,000-square-foot facility was built for just three years ago. The other two offers were from Gem Lake Lodge, an affiliate of the White Bear Lake Hockey Association for $10,650,00 and from Northern Educate VSC LLC for the full asking price of $13 million. Northern Educate, a current tenant of the sports center, offers a sports training program for student athletes ages 5 to 18 as well as academic tutoring.

While its offer is the lowest of the three, Ramsey County is the only prospective buyer able to write a check for the full amount of its bid. According to the notice to bondholders, Gem Lake and Northern Educate were not able to show “committed financing” to cover the full cost of their offers, so they would have to borrow.

“We’re comfortable with our bid and hopeful the bondholders choose it,” Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman said. Huffman added that the county’s bid was built upon the fact that user fees alone would be used to pay for the center, along with future needs of the facility.  

If its bid is accepted, Ramsey County would use money from its reserves to pay for the facility up front, and pay back those reserves over time through user fees, Huffman said.

In an interview with the Bulletin earlier this month, Ramsey County Commissioner Raphael Ortega pointed to the county’s experience operating 11 ice rinks.

“I believe we are the largest ice operators in town,” he said. “There is no doubt we could operate the Center much more efficiently. It will pay for itself.”

All three potential buyers will have the opportunity to participate in a conference call with bondholders on Wednesday, Oct. 23, where they can further discuss their proposals. According to the public notice, an update on the project’s operations, performance and strategic alternatives to the project will also be discussed.

The entity awarded the bid will have a 45-day due diligence period to further study the economic feasibility of the sports center before a sale is finalized.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.
 

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