State bond to fund Spirit Mountain and NorShor projectsGov. Mark Dayton lent his support to about $1 billion in proposed bond financing today, including projects at Spirit Mountain and the NorShor Theatre.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
Gov. Mark Dayton lent his support to about $1 billion in proposed bond financing today, including two of three projects under consideration in Duluth.
The package contains funding to renovate the NorShor Theatre in Duluth and to install a new system that would allow Spirit Mountain to draw water for its snow-making operations from St. Louis Bay. But the governor’s proposal would provide no money to support a restoration of Wade Stadium.
The city of Duluth had sought bond funding to cover half the anticipated $11.4 million cost of rejuvenating Wade — one of only three surviving brick stadiums built during the Depression by laborers in the employ of the federal Works Progress Administration.
“We’re thrilled and grateful that Spirit Mountain and the NorShor Theatre made the governor’s list of recommended projects, but of course we’re disappointed Wade Stadium didn’t make the cut,” said Daniel Fanning, communications director for the city of Duluth. “All three projects are very important to our city, and we will continue to push hard for them in the House and Senate.”
Even though Dayton didn’t support the request to fund work at Wade, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL- Duluth, noted that the state legislature will put together the actual bonding bill.
“The governor proposes, and the Legislature disposes,” he said.
Reinert pointed out that a number of legislators from other parts of the state have toured Wade to get a first-hand view of its deterioration, including a portion of brick wall that collapsed last March.
“I think the issue with the wall really amplified the need to do something,” Reinert said of the case to be made for renovations at Wade.
Rep. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, said he remains confident that the bonding bill finally put together in the House this spring will include funding for all three of the projects the city identified as its top priorities.
Fanning said the city may seek a smaller installment of funding for the Wade to address the stadium’s most pressing needs, such as emergency brick-work, a new playing field with improved drainage and better lighting for night games. He said Duluth could then return to the Legislature seeking the funds necessary to complete work on the stadium when the next bonding bill is put together.
Simonson offered support for the city’s fallback stance on Wade, calling it “strategically smart.”
“If we can’t get funding for the whole thing this year, let’s at least go forward with what’s most important,” Simonson said. “We need to prevent further damage at the bare minimum.”
Dayton did back $6.95 million in bond financing to help renovate the NorShor Theatre in Duluth and $3.4 million to install a system that would enable Spirit Mountain to pump water from St. Louis Bay to its snow-making equipment.
The ski hill currently feeds its snow guns with treated city tap-water. Spirit Mountain expects to boost its snow-making capacity and substantially reduce its bills by disconnecting equipment from the city water system. The total cost of the project is expected to be $4.5 million, with Spirit Mountain picking up an additional tab for $1.1 million.
The total cost of the NorShor project is expected to top $22 million, according to Kevin Walli, Duluth’s legislative lobbyist. Most of the remaining $15.5 million in non-state funding will come in the form of federal tax credits and equity investment by the developer, Sherman Associates. The Duluth Economic Development Authority also has already made an investment of about $2.2 million in the restoration project, according to David Montgomery, Duluth’s chief administrative officer.