Quotes may be sought to manage Ralph Engelstad Arena

by April Scheinoha

Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Huck Olson Memorial Civic Center were hot topics Tuesday, Oct. 2 during a Thief River Falls Committee of the Whole meeting.

City leaders are considering seeking quotes for a firm to provide management and/or food and beverage services at REA. They forwarded the matter to the Administrative Services Committee, which was set to meet Tuesday, Oct. 9.

“I think it’s a good option to at least explore,” said council member Jason Aarestad.
Council member Jerald Brown noted it wouldn’t cost the city anything to seek quotes. He added that city leaders could still decide that they want to run REA themselves.

Finance Director Angie Philipp pointed out that city leaders may also decide that they want a firm to do particular activities, such as events or maintenance. “You can design what you want them to run,” Philipp said.

Holmer commended city staff on doing a great job at REA. However, he noted that the city may benefit from some assistance from an outside firm. In particular, Holmer mentioned potential efficiencies and greater utilization at REA.

During the course of the discussion, two council members noted that the city hasn’t yet signed contracts with the Norskies and the Thief River Falls School District to use REA.
City Administrator Rod Otterness said the city is operating under the existing contracts with the new increased amounts discussed in committee.

Brown replied that the committee may have talked about that option, but the committee hadn’t approved the amounts.

“This lease has not been signed,” Aarestad said about the lease with the Norskies. He further noted that no one approved the increased rates.

Aarestad, Brown and council member Curt Howe said committee members have asked for months to work on the contracts.

“Get it on the agenda,” Holmer replied.

The Committee of the Whole approved holding a special council meeting Monday, Oct. 8 to consider whether to purchase a scoreboard and accept a donation for it. At the special seven-minute meeting, the council approved the purchase and accepting a $10,000 donation from Digi-Key for the project. As part of the agreement, Digi-Key’s donation will be recognized for 15 years.

The flat scoreboard is expected to cost nearly $13,000. The scoreboard will be located on a wall at HOMCC. Delivery is expected in six weeks. Holmer noted there was an urgent need to replace the scoreboard.

At the special council meeting, Holmer appointed himself, Aarestad and council member Steve Narverud to a work group related to REA. The group will study the possibility of a hotel next door to REA.