I had a really nice conversation with a man named Brian last week. Brian was concerned and a little frustrated. See, Brian is from Minnesota and he had been looking forward to Mansfield getting its own ice arena.
He watched as the proposal for a Mansfield Dr Pepper StarCenter got smacked around more than a puck on a face-off. One day it was a go, then it was dead.
Brian was concerned that the Mansfield City Council had shot the project into a corner, and was hoping that it was never coming out.
Not so, says Mayor David Cook.
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“I was convinced we had it,” he told me.
Just keeping up with the action on the proposed $15 million arena was difficult.
Here’s the way things played out:
Local mom Jenny Conrad started to get tired of driving her hockey and figure-skating kids all over the Metroplex for ice time and mentioned it to Dallas Stars Enterprises, which liked the idea.
Dallas Stars Enterprises approached the Mansfield City Council, which also liked the idea and began negotiations for a dual ice rink facility at the northeast corner of East Broad Street and U.S. 287. The 82,000-square-foot facility was on a tight schedule to open by July 2017 in time for the hockey season.
A 30-year lease agreement between the city and Dallas Stars Enterprises passed on three readings. The city would own the facility and lease it to the Dallas Stars. Rent would start at $43,333 per month and increase to $55,000 per month toward the end of the lease. The Stars would be required to prepay $1.5 million in rent, and pay a $600,000 security deposit within 30 days of moving in. The city would put up $12.6 million from the Mansfield Parks Facilities Development Corp.
The Dallas Stars wanted to bring in the Mansfield school district to generate a generation of hockey players and ice skaters in the area, plus they were going to get a hefty grant from the NHL if they could incorporate education factors.
So the City Council made the deal contingent on the Mansfield school district pitching in $500,000 for construction of the facility and $1.3 million over five years. In return, district employees would skate for free, and students would get field trips, physical education and classes at the ice arena.
The school district called a public hearing Feb. 18 to see what district residents thought of the idea. And, boy, did they hear. Dozens of people spoke, passionately for and against the idea. The figure skaters, hockey players and their families talked about home ice advantage, but even more taxpayers spoke out against using tax dollars for something they didn’t consider education.
The school board was scheduled to vote on the issue Feb. 23, but the City Council voted Feb. 22 to rescind the offer to the Dallas Stars and stop negotiations after the school district’s heated public hearing.
“We felt like the school district was being placed in a bad position,” Cook said.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen council members as sad as when they voted to halt the project. It looked like someone had canceled Christmas.
Then suddenly, the project was back on. Someone from Baylor Orthopedic and Spine Hospital in Arlington spoke with Conrad and offered to donate $1.8 million for the school district’s portion. The City Council voted March 7 to resume negotiations, and the school board put the donation on its March 29 agenda.
But the project was called again. At their March 28 meeting, council members again voted to stop negotiations.
“It wasn’t a viable opportunity for Baylor at this time,” Cook said at the meeting.
“When Baylor got the specifics, they weren’t able to do that,” he said. “Their board was worried about a long-term investment.”
Cook still hasn’t thrown in the towel.
“I haven’t changed my mind at all,” he said. “You would like to just go build it, but like anything, you have to make sure you can afford it. We want to make it happen.”