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Published September 29 2012

Forum editorial: Rescue of Scheels Arena essential

The Scheels Arena in south Fargo is one of the finest facilities of its kind in the region. The Fargo Force U.S. Hockey League team is one of the more successful franchises in the league, and one of the major winter sports attractions in Fargo-Moorhead. Game attendance is second in the league.

There’s little argument about those facts. It is imperative, therefore, that the arena’s stubborn financial problems get solved in a way that ensures both the building’s viability and the team’s future in Fargo. The months-long effort under way to achieve those goals seems to be at a critical point, meaning that it could go one way or the other.

One overriding concern among patrons of the Fargo Park District is the fear that if the current financial structure cannot be shored up, taxpayers would be on the hook. From everything we know, including the provisions of original agreement with the park board, that can’t happen. The board was clear in agreeing to, in effect, token ownership and a $100-a-year lease (to eliminate a property tax burden) so that taxpayers would not be liable should the building’s fortunes go south. If that agreement is as sound as the park board says it is, taxpayers are free and clear.

The arena’s creditors have been more than accommodating in working with the Metro Sports Foundation, which operates the building, in trying to restructure the debt in order to give the foundation more time and flexibility to pay down obligations. It also appears one or more private benefactors are ready to step up with a significant rescue package.

That last thing the F-M community needs is a failure of a relatively new sports and entertainment venue. Scheels Arena is by nearly every measure an extraordinary asset. It’s not only home to the Force but also offers ice to other local hockey programs, and is a right-sized building for trade shows, job fairs and concerts. It’s also in the right place: south Fargo’s rapidly growing commercial and residential district.

People close to negotiations told The Forum last week that the last pieces of the financial puzzle were falling into place. If so, that would be good news for the Force, foundation, park board and creditors. As important, a successful restructuring would be confirmation that Fargo leaders, lenders and sports enthusiasts have the vision, will and resources to underwrite the future of a community asset.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.