Albert Lea considering $10.9 million in rec facility projects

Albert Lea Rec Center Renovations

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(ABC 6 News) – The City of Albert Lea is considering $10.9 million in projects for long-term maintenance and energy savings at the City Arena, Aquatic Center and Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

The proposal also includes public restrooms near the Splash Pad at the north end of Broadway Avenue.

Though they haven’t caused an issue yet it’s what could happen that worries recreation manager Bob Fruland. He says with having up to date facilities will benefit the whole town. “That’s a lot of people coming to albert lea, staying in the motels, visiting the restaurants so I think,” said Recreation Manager Bob Fruland.

With federal funding of $2.5 million available for the energy-savings projects, the net cost to taxpayers would be $8.4 million.

“The city has taken excellent care of our rec facilities, making repairs and replacements much more cost-effective than building new facilities. We have equipment that is starting to fail after 20 years or more of use. Other projects would save energy – and money – over the long run. We also need to fix some accessibility problems,” said Cathy Malakowsky, engagement and enrichment director for Albert Lea.

The city says it may seem like a lot, but the $10.9 million price tag is not because of a lack of maintenance.

“In fact, it’s the opposite. We have taken extra care our facilities and that’s why we can invest in what we have instead of having to build new,” said Malakowsky.

The public is invited to learn more and provide input about the projects at an open house Thursday, Jan. 4, from 4 – 6 p.m. at the City Arena, 701 Lake Chapeau Drive. The city council is scheduled to vote on the proposal and financing options at its Jan. 8 meeting. For more information the rec facility investment plan, CLICK HERE.

City Arena, 701 Lake Chapeau Drive

$6.3 million net cost in projects ($8.8 million less $2.5 million in federal funding)

Built in 1967 as the field house for Lea College, the city bought the building when the college closed and converted it to an ice arena in 1976. The second sheet of ice opened in 1999. The arena totals 99,800 in square footage.

The arena projects include repairing support beams; replacing the floor of the Colstrup rink; replacing the two separate refrigeration systems for both rinks with one system; replacing the lighting with LEDs; expanding the lobby; and replacing other equipment or fixtures.

Aquatic Center, 321 James Ave.

$1.5 million in projects

The Aquatic Center opened in 1975 and was rebuilt with new features, including a water slide, in 1998.

The Aquatic Center needs to replace equipment that is starting to fail, including boilers, water heaters and electrical systems. Replacing the lighting with LEDs would reduce energy use. Limited remodeling would make some areas more family-friendly and gender-neutral.

Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, 147 N. Broadway Ave.

$339,000 in projects

The city owns the theater building, which is managed by Albert Lea Community Theater. Projects would include replacing the front windows; replacing the front doors to meet ADA requirements; LED lighting; water conservation measures; and HVAC automation.

Splash Pad, 107 Fountain St.

$250,000 for restrooms

Funded by donations, the Splash Pad opened in 2017. Public restrooms in this location would serve the downtown area, including popular events such as the Farmers Market, Wind Down Wednesday and Thursdays on Fountain.