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Lease approved for new Willmar curling facility, Glacial Ridge Curling's fundraising next step

Tribune file photo The Glacial Ridge Curling Club and the city of Willmar have approved a final lease agreement on a dedicated curling facility to be built adjacent to the Willmar Civic Center. The curling club will now need to raise over $2 million for the project. A dedicated facility will allow the curling club to expand its offerings and bring in more matches and events.

WILLMAR — With the final lease agreement between the city of Willmar and Glacial Ridge Curling signed and approved by both parties, the next step on the journey to bring a dedicated curling facility to Willmar is for the curlers to raise more than $2 million for the project.

"Before the city would have to take any steps toward the design of this facility, they would need to receive 60 percent of the estimated cost up front," said Willmar City Attorney Robert Scott as he explained the agreement to the Willmar City Council during Monday's meeting. "This project will be funded by Glacial Ridge Curling."

The council approved the lease agreement 7-1, with Councilor Ron Christianson casting the lone dissenting vote.

While the city will own the completed facility, the curling club will lease it for at least 25 years at a nominal annual rent. The curlers will be able to renew the lease three times, for five-year intervals, bringing the total lease laid out in the agreement to a total of 40 years.

"Glacial Ridge Curling will have nearly exclusive possession of the facility during the curling season, which is the cold weather months. The city would have possession of the facility, and use it for dry-floor events, during the warm months," Scott said.

Christianson said he voted against the agreement because he was worried about spending taxpayers' money to keep up the facility when the curlers are not using it.

"This is taxpayers' dollars we are talking about, taxpayers' dollars to maintain it down the road," Christianson said. "Unless someone can tell me it will definitely be used for something, I can't support it."

City Administrator Ike Holland said the facility will be used for such things as conventions. There have been cases when certain events could not be held in Willmar because the Civic Center did not have enough space.

"It will definitely be used by the city and people in the community," Holland said.

The approved lease agreement covers everything from the fundraising for the project to design and maintenance and operations.

"This agreement is extensive," Scott said.

Still to be ironed out is when the city would want the remaining 40 percent of the project costs. Scott said that 40 percent would pay for the bonds the city will use to build the facility.

The city will be in charge of the design of the building, with both parties having to mutually agree on a design. While the curling club is responsible for paying for the building, if the city adds items to the project that go above and beyond what the curling club envisioned, those would be at the city's expense.

Councilor Fernando Alvarado already has a few visions for the proposed facility, including making it possible to broadcast events from the facility, whether it is curling matches or other activities. He said Willmar has a history of only designing for the present, but he wants the curling facility to be designed for future opportunities as well.

"Let's have an Olympic trial here. Let's bring them in here. Let's say 'Hey, ESPN, Fox, whoever, we are ready for you,'" Alvarado said. "I want to look big. I want you to look big."

The project between the city and Glacial Ridge to construct a curling facility has been in the works for nearly two years, though the curlers have been wanting a home of their own for even longer. A letter of intent was signed in April, following months of meetings about what the project would entail and who would be responsible for what. The approval of the lease agreement now allows fundraising to begin.

Mayor Marv Calvin thanked the club for sticking with the city during the process. He said he is also looking forward to another project in Willmar headed by community members, similar to the Destination Playground constructed at Robbins Island Park.

"This is going to be donations from our community that will build this," Calvin said.

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