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Arena proposal intrigues EDA

It's like the "Field of Dreams" quote: If you build it, they will come.

That's the philosophy behind a proposal by John Colby, manager of The Colby Group, for a development that includes an ice arena, hotel and more. The idea has Farmington Economic Development Authority intrigued.

Colby's plan includes a two-sheet ice arena, a hotel, an entertainment complex, a couple of restaurants and a campground. It might seem like a big project for Farmington, but Colby and his local contact, former Farmington Housing and Redevelopment Authority director Gerald Henricks, it could be just the thing Farmington needs to spur commercial growth.

Colby and Henricks met with the EDA Monday to present their concept.

Project details

Colby's estimates are preliminary, but he figures the total project would cost about $23.30 million.

The city's portion of all of this would be the ice arena, which Colby estimates would cost about $5 million, with the understanding they could use recycled equipment to keep the costs lower.

Colby estimates his indoor domed fields could draw about 500,000 visitors annually.

In the entertainment complex, Colby suggests two restaurants, a fun center for things like lazer tag or batting cages and a golf center that includes a pro shop and indoor mini golf.

Colby would ask the city to bond $6.5 million for the project. That amount covers not only the construction of an ice arena, but infrastructure, developer fees and additional fees associated with the project. Colby suggested the city use a tax-exempt lease where the EDA would contract with Crowne Sports Management -- Colby's management company -- to cover the city's costs.


Colby and Henricks admit there are still some details to work out. One of those details is where the project would be located.

Henricks said the United States Department of Agriculture has funding available for development of land that was previously used for farming, and that there are a couple of locations in the city of Farmington which would qualify for that loan program.

For the most part, they are looking at land south of County Road 50.

But EDA chairperson Christy Jo Fogarty asked the simple question: "Why Farmington?"

Henricks answered just as simply: "Why not Farmington?"

Henricks was HRA director when Farmington's industrial park was planned and the first businesses opened within. At the time, he said, there was skepticism about whether such a project would work in Farmington, but yet, it did. He thinks the same thing could happen with Colby's proposal.

Colby said, Farmington is in a good location since there is no similar development in the area.

"We are in the outer ring. This project is designed for it," Colby said. "You get to that location and you're going to spend money there. Our focus is that outer ring."

For nearly an hour, Colby and Henricks talked about benefits to the community, funding and other details. EDA members had plenty of questions, too.

"Sometimes, it seems too good to be true, so you can understand our hesitation," Fogarty said.

On the other hand, the members were also intrigued by the proposal and asked to hear more. They asked that Colby pull some financing information together and provide more information so the city's financial advisors could take a look at the project and determine if it is a feasible idea for Farmington.

"We've dwelled on the negative, but this could be something great," said member Terry Donnelly. "I'm interested to hear more."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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