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MAC ice arena first in line among big city projects

This drawing of the Mitchell Activities Center shows what the building would look like with a second sheet of ice added to the south side. (Courtesy of Puetz Corp.)1 / 2
The Mitchell Activities Center, which houses one sheet of indoor ice, will soon get a second sheet added to its south side -- the left side of this photo. (Chris Huber/Republic)2 / 2

MITCHELL'S $13.9 MILLION MAKEOVER: Part 2 of a series examining four bond-funded public building projects.

The addition of a second ice rink to the Mitchell Activities Center will almost assuredly be the first of four major upcoming building projects to be completed by the city.

"Our goal is to have it completed by October 1, 2013," said Mark Puetz, a Puetz Corp. partner and project coordinator.

Mayor Ken Tracy said he is "pleasantly surprised" by that timeline.

"That seems like a worthy goal, and I hope they can achieve it."

The new ice rink, which will be added to the south side of the existing ice arena, will be 31,000 square feet, 124 feet north to south, and 255 feet east to west, and 23 feet tall at its peak. Six new locker rooms will be added, five for teams, and one for officials. Restrooms will be added as well.

In addition, a large mechanical area for a Zamboni will be constructed. The plans call for one of the massive ice-smoothing machines, but there will be room for a second one, Puetz said. The current MAC ice arena was dedicated on Nov. 3, 1995. The first games were played on Dec. 29, 1995, as the Mitchell Marlins fell 10-0 to the Huron All-Stars, but the Mitchell PeeWees defeated Watertown 7-2.

Dave Tronnes, who was president of the Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association then and is still a supporter of the program, said the facility cost $800,000 to build, with the city supplying $500,000, and the MSHA raising $300,000.

"It took lots of volunteer sweat equity to keep the price that low," he said. "Professional rink builders said the original building and ice would cost about $1.5 million if it were done in the Twin Cities back then."

Puetz was not involved in the original project, but it received a contract from the Mitchell City Council on Feb. 4 to design the addition. It will be slightly smaller and will not have as many seats as the original rink.

Although Mayor Ken Tracy said after he took office in June 2012 that relocating City Hall would be his major priority, he soon switched to supporting a second sheet of ice at the MAC. Tracy said he became convinced that with a second rink, tournaments could be held here in the fall and winter, bringing more people, and more money, to Mitchell in the "shoulder seasons" that could use a boost.

"It seemed like it fit in with what was happening as far as public support," he said Feb. 11. "The hockey association committing to help fund it, the definite need for ice for participants -- all of those things pointed to re-prioritizing to what project to do first."

The addition will cost an estimated $2.8 million, up from the original estimate of $2.6 million, Puetz said. The additional $200,000 comes from work that will be needed on the ground, which was not stable enough for the building, he said.

"No one had looked at the footholds," Puetz said.

The soils reports showed that a "significant amount" of over-excavation is needed to replace the dirt with engineered fill material, which is granulized gravel and sand.

A subcontractor will perform that work, as others will for the other jobs. Puetz sought contracts to serve as both architect and construction manager at risk, but the council, threatened with a lawsuit by competitors who felt Puetz should not get both jobs, only offered it the design job.

Puetz said he strongly disagrees with the assertion that it's against state law for a firm to do both jobs on a project.

"That is absolutely false," he said. "For something to be proven illegal, it needs to be proven in a court of law."

But Puetz said he has come to understand why the city chose to offer his family's company just the one contract.

"I can understand where the city was coming from," he said. "They want this project to move forward as quickly as possible. I can understand that."

Under the plan now in place, Puetz is publishing bid documents and specifications for the job.

On March 5, a pre-bid meeting at the MAC will be held to discuss the project, and bids will be opened publicly at City Hall on March 14.

"There will probably be six bid packages and therefore six contracts with the city," Puetz said.

One of the bid packages will be a general contractor package, and that firm could perform work while also overseeing the project schedule. The general contractor package will include the metal building, doors and windows, dirt work, and other miscellaneous construction.

A vital contract will be let for the ice package, which will involve concrete work and the ice refrigeration system.

"It's a pretty important component that you need specialized contractors for," Puetz said.

Other contracts will be issued for mechanical, electric, plumbing and fire suppression. Puetz will not bid on any of the bid packages. Other firms can submit bids for as many as they feel qualified for, but bidders must separate out their bids per each specific bid packages, he said.

Puetz will review the bids and the companies' capability to complete the work in a quality and timely manner. Puetz will be paid $233,962 for its services. Once the bids are signed, and weather permits, work will start. The first stage is to prepare the ground for the building, and then construction will begin.

Ice time is scarce

The hockey season starts as fall arrives, and Puetz said it appears the second sheet of ice will be ready for practices, games and tournaments.

John Lord, head coach of the Mitchell Marlins boys varsity team, said there is a dire need for more ice time for hockey teams and ice skaters.

"Right now ... I typically get down to the ink at 5 a.m.," Lord said. "The boys have to be there at 5:30. And we practice until 7."

Lord said dozens of players from the age of 4 on up want access to the ice. There are also four adult teams who would love to have better times to play, since right now they play late at night.

The second rink will not only allow more tournaments to be held -- a tournament for every age group is the goal -- but would allow more open skate times. There are people of almost all age groups who want to skate and play on the frozen surface, he said.

Chuck Jones, Mitchell's sports complex division supervisor, has three full-time staffers and two part-timers who work with him. They put in some long days, Jones said.

Coaches often open up the MAC at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Fridays, he said, and staffers are on hand from 7 a.m. through 11 p.m. The facility is closed in early April, when the ice is removed, and reopens in mid-September.

Mitchell Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department Director Dusty Rodiek said the MAC is a hopping place during the fall and winter.

"A lot of it depends on the tournaments and what we have going on," Rodiek said. "There are times the staff doesn't get out of there until midnight or later."

He said the MSHA plays a major role and helps him avoid adding additional staffing. Rodiek said he doesn't plan to add anyone on staff when the new rink opens, either.

"The hockey association, they're a great association. They spend a lot of time, the parents do," he said. "They've been a great resource."

Rodiek said the new sheet won't be just for hockey. There will be more time set aside for open skating, and there has been a lot of demand for that. Another option floated last year was bringing a professional hockey team to Mitchell.

There are pro teams in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Aberdeen and Brookings. The teams in Aberdeen and Brookings belong to the North American Hockey League, a junior league for players 16 to 20 years old.

Rodiek said while he thinks that's a longshot, the addition of the second ice rink would possibly offer enough ice time for a pro team.

Council President Jeff Smith said bringing in a pro team won't happen right away, but it remains an option.

"That is a possibility, but we would have to increase our seating capacity, and that is not designed in this phase," he said.

Paying for it

Funding for the second rink will come from a variety of sources.

The city sold $13.9 million in bonds in December and January, and $2.1 million is reportedly set aside for the ice addition. The city is also hopeful that local motels and hotels will form a Business Improvement District (BID) that will raise money through a per-bed tax.

Tracy said he is hopeful motel and hotel owners will agree to the self-imposed tax. He said Dave Helleloid, the general manager of the Days Inn as well as the Comfort Inn and Suites, both in Mitchell, is leading the effort.

Helleloid was unavailable for comment, according to a Days Inn staffer.

In addition, the MSHA has vowed to raise $500,000 for the project, and is more than halfway to its goal. Smith said it had $276,500 in pledges as of Feb. 12.

The MSHA's Twice the Ice committee has approached many area businesses and community leaders asking for support, sponsorships and donations. The committee is also asking the families of players to kick in some money to reach the $500,000 goal. All contributions are tax-deductible, potential donors are reminded.

In a message to them, the MSHA promises "more convenient practice times, more ice time, more home games and the ability to attend home camps and clinics ..."

"Donations are accepted in any amount and can be given as gifts or memorials. Payments can be made all at once or over the course of months, up to two years," according to the message posted on the MSHA website. "Recognition for gifts will be given at various levels on a plaque in the lobby and also in future Marlin program books."

Committee members include City Council President Jeff Smith and his wife Lynn Smith, Brian Nash, Doug Beck, Dave Muth, Dave Tronnes, Brad Zimmerman, Mike Mohr, Carey Grosdidier and Sheryl Loes. To contribute, send a donation to MSHA Twice the Ice Fund, PO Box 5, Mitchell, S.D., 57301.

Lord said players, coaches, parents and fans are all eager to see the second rink ready for play,

"We are excited," Lord said. "We are looking forward to them getting it open."