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Budget Cuts Threaten Minnesota State Arena Renovation Plan

Larry Radloff

Last spring, plans to renovate Mankato's Verizon Wireless Center were included in the $1B Minnesota state legislature bonding bill. The renovations were much-needed, adding many modern amenities for both the men's and women's program, and long overdue. While the other four Division I hockey schools in the state had received millions of dollars in state funding, neither Minnesota State nor the city of Mankato had ever received any money from the state for hockey facilities.

But at a city council meeting in Mankato on Monday evening, it was reported that some budget cuts will have to be made to the project. In essence, the upcoming construction project will still make space for all the planned amenities in the project, but Minnesota State will have to raise the money--expected to be about $440,000--to actually furnish the project with things like whirlpools, reception area furniture and displays.

Minnesota State men's hockey head coach Mike Hastings was understandably upset with the news.

"I was told from Day 1, that the (state) bonding money was going to take care of our facility issues," Hastings told Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press. "It was my understanding that the project would provide amenities that fall in line with other programs within our geographic footprint," he said. "Just compare amenities. At its present state, I’m concerned."

Hastings' concerns should be echoed by Minnesota State fans. A commitment to being competitive in terms of facilities was a drawing point in bringing Hastings to Mankato three years ago. Some major college head coaching jobs are now looking very likely to become available in the near future, and with Hastings' success at Minnesota State, he'd likely at least be considered for those jobs.

The cuts seem to be coming at the expense of keeping the primary objective of the bonding in tact, which is creating a new $19M auditorium/events center that would host the Mankato Symphony Orchestra(LMGTFY: Yeah, that's a real thing) as well as give the VWC the flexibility to book smaller concert engagements. It is certainly a noble goal to promote the fine arts in that way, but seems tremendously short-sighted to do so at the expense of the building's primary tenant.