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Posted by on in Announcements

By Dave Umlauf

With the leaves falling off the trees and the beach bag put away we are all thinking about our hockey and ice skating season. Although this time of year comes second nature to us all, we must remember that not everyone knows how our operations work as well as us. Let me give you some idea’s to help make a positive transition from first year employee to long time staff member;

 Meet, talk too and train all you’re your staff members, even returning staff

 Have a check list of normal operating procedure, from locker room assignments, skate sharping techniques to opening & closing procedures

 Have one pass down log from shift to shift, night to night & day to day

 Don’t schedule two "rookies" alone – have one of your more experienced staff train a first year member

 Explain why Nitrogen Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide readings are important

 Drop by on week-ends and evening to answer any questions –not to catch them doing something wrong (yes- there is a difference)

Please remember that if you give your new staff a good experience they can turn into a long term seasonal staff member which is what we are all trying to achieve.

Also, don’t forget about the new termite or figure skaters seeing a huge sheet of ice for the first time. Although many of us don’t work directly with the user groups we need to make our facility is as welcoming as possible. Many parents and skaters come to our facility for the first times are overwhelmed and stressed-out. Parents don’t know where or how to put their child’s equipment on or if they can be on the ice with their first time skater. Our staff needs to be reminded to be patient and accessible to answer basic questions such as: Can my child get on the ice when the "ice thingy" is on it, where can I help my child dress or where can I get my skates sharpened? Also keep your restrooms clean, they are a reflection on you and your staff.

Please remember that your new staff or participants have not been in the rink for as many years as us. With the added stress of beginning our operations we need to slow down and educated our new users to what is expected of them so they can enjoy their skating and work experiences from their first season and hopefully for many more to come.

It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome. - William James




Posted by on in News

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Posted: 10/24/2013 12:01:00 AM CDT | Updated:   about 12 hours ago
The main sheet of ice at Vadnais Sports Center is the home ice for White Bear Lake and Hill-Murray high schools and Hamline University. (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)

The Vadnais Sports Center will go to the highest bidder, not Ramsey County.

County officials were notified Thursday morning that they would not be taking over operations of the 200,000-square-foot arena, which was put on the market in July after failing to make enough revenue to cover debt payments owed to bondholders.

Instead, the private sports training academy Northern Educate landed the deal.

"It's fine," Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman said of the decision. "Our attitude was if we could get it where it made sense financially it would have been a really great deal, but if they are choosing to go with an offer that is better for them, that's certainly their prerogative. We have no angst with that."

Ramsey County bid $10.

A skater enters the Vadnais Sports Center in Vadnais Heights, Tuesday, June 5, 2012. The facility has two sheets of ice and the state's second-tallest dome covering a 100,000-square-foot turf field. (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)
6 million to buy the complex, which sits on about 15 acres of land at U.S. 61 and County Road E in Vadnais Heights. The county hoped to add the center to the network of ice arenas it operates countywide.

It was one of three bidders that made it to the final round of negotiations on the complex. Northern Educate offered $13 million. Gem Lake Lodge LLC, an affiliate of the White Bear Lake Hockey Association, bid $10.7 million.

At a meeting Wednesday, bondholders opted for the highest return on their investment, which has already taken a sizable hit in the sale.

The arena went on the market at $13 million over the summer. Bondholders paid about $26 million to finance the facility, which opened in 2010.

"Thirteen million was the preferable offer," said Dan Nelson, an attorney for the sports center's owner, Community Facility Partners. "We are happy to have the highest and best bid at the asking price."

Northern Educate is pleased to be the last buyer standing, said Brian Schoenborn, an attorney for the sports academy.

"We feel really good about the acceptance of the offer and excited to move forward to the closing," Schoeborn said.

The sports training program already rents space in the Vadnais Sports Center. The model, started by husband-and-wife team Shawn and Kathy Black, has seen rapid growth in recent years.

It started as a blend of online learning and intensive hockey training for seven students at Eagan Civic Arena in 2011.

By the end of the 2013 school year, nearly 100 students were enrolled.

This fall, it expanded its offering to include other sports at three additional facilities in the Twin Cities, including the Vadnais Sports Center.

Students enrolled in the program pay between $9,500 and $18,500 depending on the sport; they spend half their day in class and the other half in training.

The purchase of the arena will not alter the way the academy runs its program or how much the Vadnais Sports Center will be open to the public, Schoenborn said.

"Nothing will change. ... The arena will continue to be available for community purposes and use. The Northern Educate model just allows it to be used more and for longer during the day when normal recreational facilities are empty," Schoenborn said.

The built-in user base provided through the program gives the arena the base it needs to be successful, Schoenborn added.

"Northern Educate's program enables (the sports center) to be much more successful long-term, so we're excited about that and to (be able to) make sure the facility stays strong and vibrant in the community," Schoenborn said.

A successful business model would be a turnaround for the arena, which was formerly backed financially by the city of Vadnais Heights.

After failing to live up to revenue projections, however, the city found itself covering shortfalls amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It cut ties with the complex last year, leaving bondholders without a guaranteed payback plan and prompting its eventual sale.

The company still needs to come up with the $13 million in cash to pay bondholders.

If they fail to do so, the deal will fall through, Nelson said.

A letter of intent along with $250,000 in earnest money is expected to be signed in the next two to three weeks. Northern Educate will have 45 days to perform further due diligence on the deal.

If all goes well, a purchase and sale agreement should be in place by the closing of the first quarter of 2014, Nelson said.

Bondholders also will have the option to reinvest in Northern Educate's business model.

Sarah Horner can be reached at 651-228-5539. Follow her at


Posted by on in News

Sports Center in Foreclosure
FOREST LAKE, Minn. – A foreclosure notice in the Oct. 3 Stillwater Gazette said the mortgage for the Forest Lake Area Athletic Association Sports Center facility is in default. The notice said the original principal amount was $4,500,000 and the current amount due is $4,302,817. Using the power of sale in the mortgage, the facility will be sold at public auction at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, 15015 N. 62nd St. in Stillwater. The City of Forest Lake owns the land. Four banks — Village, Frandsen, Central and First Resources — own the outstanding debt. Village Bank is the creditor of record.
Source: Forest Lake Times

Posted by on in Presidents Corner

Its here!

October is already half over, the 2013 MIAMA Fall conference is a distant memory. The Wild, the Gopher Men’s and Women’s hockey teams are all several games into their 2013-14 season.   In a few weeks, the MSHSL Girls Hockey and Boys Hockey Seasons will officially start, as well as the USA Hockey youth season will be in full swing before you know it. Although we have all been through getting geared up for the hockey season before, this season once again will offer several new things, new coaches, new team rosters, new faces, and new issues to deal with and force changes to adjust to what is new and different. In a nut shell, a new hockey season should always mean a new season of changes.

Change can be one of the most challenging times or one of the most celebrated times in our lives.   Without change not a whole lot would progress or get better. There are many changes big and small that will have to be implemented sooner or later in your facility that ultimately affect your customers/guests.  Some changes you personally have planned and created and will implement, while others will be changes that happen outside of your control and you and your operation will have to adjust to accommodate. Whether change is planned or not, your knowledge of the change your attitude toward that change can dictate how successful it will be.  The MIAMA fall conference offered a great time to discuss any changes you may be facing with colleagues, as well as listening to some great leadership points from our featured speakers that we have taken back to our facilities to incorporate into your operation.

As your busy season begins, embrace, implement, and try to be a head of whatever change that will make your facility and operation the best it can be. Always know that whatever change is on the horizon may be new to you but it may be something the rink 15 minutes away or 3 hours away may have already encountered. Give your colleagues a call and bounce the idea off of them.  Hopefully some changes are noticed by your guests while other changes no one notices. Regardless of the change they hopefully help make your operation and facility a better place for everyone.   Your operation and facility is an important part of creating lifetime memories for kids, parents, and fans everyday.   Before you know it March Madness will be here and gone and we will be again looking forward to the 2014-15 season.

--"Remember, I'm pullin' for ya'.  We're all in this thing together."
                                           -Red Green
Craig Flor

2013-14 MIAMA President

Posted by on in News

Bids on Vadnais Sports Center become public

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POSTED:   09/30/2013 12:01:00 AM CDT | UPDATED:   ABOUT 4 HOURS AGO

A skater enters the Vadnais Sports Center in Vadnais Heights, Tuesday, June 5, 2012. The facility has two sheets of ice and the state's second-tallest dome covering a 100,000-square-foot turf field. (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)

Final offers on the Vadnais Sports Center are in and the one proposed by Ramsey County to buy the beleaguered arena stands apart from the rest.

Though it is the lowest of three still under consideration, Ramsey County is the only potential buyer with the finances to buy the 200,0000-square-foot complex with cash, according to a public notice filed Monday with bond holders.

The county's offer came in at about $10.6 million.

"We bid where it made sense," said County Commissioner Blake Huffman. "At the end of the day we will see what the bonder holders want."

The other two potential buyers -- Northern Educate VSC LLC and Gem Lake Lodge LLC -- bid $13 million and about $10.7 million, respectively, according to the document.

Neither of those two entities could prove they have cash financing to cover their offer, though both extended bondholders the opportunity to swap a portion of their bond debt for equity in their business, said Dan Nelson, an attorney for the arena's owner, Community Facility Partners.

"The other two have letters of interest from lenders but they don't have a lender at the table right now saying 'We agree to make a loan for X, Y or Z...,'" Nelson said. "It's that whole bird in the hand versus something else in the bush question ... that will be for the bondholders to decide."

All three bidders, Ramsey County included, have indicated intent to continue to operate the facility as a sports center, Nelson said.

The arena houses two hockey rinks, a domed field and a running track. There are also locker rooms, a concession area and office space. Sak's sports bar is attached to the building.

Northern Educate is a current tenant of the Vadnais Sports Center. The intensive sports training program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade has seen explosive growth in enrollment since opening about two years ago.

Gem Lake Lodge is described in the notice as an affiliate of the White Bear Lake Hockey Association.

Ramsey County owns and operates 11 sheets of ice countywide. Officials have said acquiring the Vadnais Sports Center for the right price would be a logical addition to its fleet.

Representatives from Gem Lake Lodge and Northern Educate did not respond to calls for comment Monday.

The sports arena went up for sale in July for $13 million after failing to earn enough revenue to cover debt payments owned to bond holders on the $26 million facility.

When it opened in 2010, the city of Vadnais Heights had agreed to financially back the arena. After failing to live up to performance expectations, the city quickly found itself handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover shortfalls.

It cut ties with the center at the end of last year, leaving bondholders without a guaranteed pay back plan.

After hitting the market, some 20 entities expressed interest in buying the facility, Nelson said.

The pool was narrowed to three a few weeks ago.

Bondholders will have an opportunity to ask questions about the remaining offers and share their opinions on the sale at a conference call scheduled Oct. 23.

Gem Lake Lodge as well as Northern Educate will have the opportunity to further explain their proposals at that time, Nelson said.

A buyer is expected to be selected shortly after that date, Nelson said.

After the selection is made there will be a 45 day window for the buyer to conduct further due diligence on the finances of the arena.

If county officials come to learn revenues can't cover the arena's expenses plus future capital costs, Ramsey County will walk away, Huffman said.

"Our first priority all along has been that user fees need to pay for everything," Huffman said.

County Commissioner Rafael Ortega wouldn't go quite that far.

"If that doesn't work out, then the board will have a discussion about how we move forward," Ortega said.

Sarah Horner can be reached at 651-228-5539. Follow her at