Community invited to free skate, theater tour to learn more about referendum

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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The city of Albert Lea has invited the community to learn more about the upcoming referendum on $9.8 million in funding for recreational facilities at two events:

  • Free public skate from 5 to 7 p.m. March 7 at City Arena, 701 Lake Chapeau Drive, sponsored by Waldorf University. The event will also include presentations about the proposed projects followed by arena tours at 5:15 and 6:15 p.m. While Waldorf University is based in Forest City, Iowa, its hockey program holds games and practices at the Albert Lea arena.
  • Open house at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, 147 N. Broadway Ave., from 4 to 6 p.m. March 19. The event will include presentations and tours at 4:15 and 5:15 p.m. This free event is sponsored by Albert Lea Community Theatre (ACT). While the city owns the building, ACT manages the theater, offering more than 12 events, such as concerts and plays, per season.

Albert Lea voters will decide in a referendum on April 9 whether to authorize the city borrowing up to $9.8 million for the betterment of City Arena, Aquatic Center (321 James Ave.) and Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, along with building public restrooms near the splash pad downtown (107 Fountain St.).

The proposed projects total $12.25 million, with federal funding of $2.45 million available for energy-savings projects at the arena, which would lower the local property tax impact to $9.8 million or less. The cost to individual taxpayers would depend on their property values. For a home valued at $100,000, the additional cost would be $47.50 per year or less than $4 per month.

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Most of the proposed projects replace equipment that is starting to fail, including the refrigeration system at the arena and water-heating systems at the pool. The theater projects included replacing the front doors to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

Other projects include expanding the arena lobby for better security and crowd flow, along with remodeling the Aquatic Center to offer more changing room options upon entry and increasing the concessions area from 130 to 300 square feet.

The Albert Lea Hockey Association has pledged $250,000 toward expanding the arena lobby, with the Albert Lea Figure Skating Club also planning a donation. ACT has pledged to replace the exterior digital sign on the theater building, estimated to cost $25,000.

While Albert Lea polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on April 9, absentee voting is already underway. For more information about voting, proposed projects and upcoming events, please visit the city website at