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Kerry Collins, Published August 06 2009

$435K loan to help cover U18 hockey tournament losses

The Metro Sports Foundation received money to pay off outstanding debt from the U18 World Junior hockey championships.

Now comes the long haul of paying off the loan.

The MSF was approved for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration for $435,800, according to Urban Plains Center general manager Lance Johnson.

“We have been approved for the SBA loan, and the funds actually were sent today to us,” Johnson said. “We’ll be paying the majority of our bills for the U18 between today and tomorrow.”

The loan was largely expected to pay outstanding lodging, food and transportation bills tied to the U18 tournament.

The Moorhead Sports Center, the secondary site for the tournament, was still owed $22,255.99, according to Moorhead city manager Michael Redlinger.

“We’ve heard they received the loan, and expect it to come in the next couple of days,” Redlinger said. “We’re obviously happy to be receiving payment.”

The loan comes with a 4 percent interest rate, and the MSF will pay it back over the next 12 years. Johnson said the payments will be added to the MSF’s operational budget.

“One of those things that we’re not excited about is paying back, but it’s something that we’ve signed on to pay back,” Johnson said. “We’ll find a way to do so. … It’s going to be getting more events through the door, selling more advertising and getting more butts in the seats. In our budget, we have room for improvements and debt. Unfortunately, we’re going to have more debt for the next 12 years because of this loan.”

Johnson said the loan took care of the majority of the debt from the tournament, but not 100 percent of it. The remainder will have payment plans worked out, he said.

The tournament drew an average of 1,444 fans per game in the 31 contests between the Urban Plains Center and Moorhead Sports Center over 11 days from April 9-19.

Without the flood, Johnson said the tournament would’ve been a bigger success.

“(Without the flood), I don’t think we would’ve been in the financial situation we’re in,” Johnson said. “The last thing on my mind, if I had a basement full of water, would be to go to a hockey game.

“If the tournament happens with no flood-related problems, I think we would’ve been just fine.”

The MSF has long said they were happy with the results of the U18 in terms of the United States winning the tournament and the exposure of showing the UP Center could host such an event.

But making money was the hard part.

“U18 was a perfect event, with the exception of the bottom line,” Johnson said. “Everyone I’ve talked to that I’ve done business with agrees. The numbers didn’t work, and we believe it was 100 percent due to the flood and the conditions.

“For the most part, probably a little bit of sympathy out there from people saying, ‘Boy, it was such a great event. It’s too bad it didn’t make money.’ ”

That sympathy has been what has bought the MSF some time in paying the bills, Johnson said.

“Most of the people were very sensitive to our situation,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to go out there and say, ‘This event didn’t make money. It lost money.’

“I don’t want to paint the picture with that brush because it was a great event.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548.

Collins’ blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com