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Dream of new Willmar curling facility one step closer

Tribune file photo The Glacial Ridge Curling Club's effort to build a $2.24 million dedicated curling facility near the Willmar Civic Center cleared a hurdle this week when the Willmar City Council gave permission for the city administrator and attorney to prepare a lease agreement. The club plans to build the facility, and the city will own it and lease it back.

WILLMAR — As the Winter Olympics kicked off this week in PyeongChang, South Korea, curlers a little closer to home have cleared one hurdle in their quest to build a dedicated curling facility in Wilmar.

The Willmar City Council on Monday night gave the city administrator and city attorney permission to prepare a lease agreement between the city and the Glacial Ridge Curling Club for the proposal to construct a dedicated curling facility on city land.

"It is a crucial first step, that we get this out of the way first," so both parties know what is expected of them, said Ike Holland, city administrator.

The curling club hopes to construct a separate building near, or adjacent, to the Willmar Civic Center. During the off season, the building could be used for dry floor events. The city would own the building and lease it back to the curling club for a nominal fee.

At the Jan. 29 work session of the City Council, the club estimated the building would cost around $2.24 milion, which the curling club would have to raise. The city is providing the site for the project, site preparation and use of the Civic Center parking lot.

"That project is going to be great. We are really excited to see what you guys put out there," Mayor Marv Calvin said.

Also at Monday's meeting, the council made a decision on the new ice refrigeration plant at the Civic Center. The current equipment serving the Cardinal Arena and the Blue Line Arena is nearly 45 years old and in need of replacement.

While Public Works Director Sean Christensen was still recommending installing a system which could chill the ice for three buildings, the council decided to approve a system for only two buildings. The estimated cost of the refrigeration system is $2.6 million.

The project also includes an expanded ice resurfacer room in the Blue Line Area and a interior snow melt pit. This will eliminate the need for the resurfacer to go outside to dump the snow scraped from the ice sheets.

The curling club is planning to have its own ice plant in the new facility. Christensen said he does not agree with that plan, believing that one system for all three buildings would make more sense.

"One system, if city staff is maintaining, is better and more efficient to maintain. One refrigeration system will run three different temperatures of ice," Christensen said.

The council vote was 6 to 1 in favor of the two-building option. The lone no vote was Councilor Shawn Mueske.

"I am supporting what the staff recommendation was," Mueske said. Councilor Andrew Plowman was absent.