Editorial: Support current, future generations in vote

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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Next Tuesday marks an important day for Albert Lea and its recreational facilities.

On that day, residents will decide whether to approve $12.25 million in long-term maintenance and energy savings at the City Arena, Aquatic Center and Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, including the addition of public restrooms near the splash pad on North Broadway.

Of the total cost, federal funding would cover about $2.45 million in energy-savings costs, leaving about $9.8 million in the hands of voters.

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According to the city, the cost would be paid back over 20 years and would equate to an additional $4 a month — or $47.50 a year — for a home valued at $100,000.

While we recognize that costs are on the rise everywhere around us, we think the choice in this vote is clear and simple to help sustain — and even potentially grow — opportunities for the community.

Not only that, but it is critical in continuing to be able to offer games and tournaments for thousands of visitors who travel to Albert Lea’s local facilities each year.

These visitors bring in a lot of money to area businesses, including gas stations, restaurants, hotels and motels, which in turn give back to the area in wages and support to community efforts, including sports teams, youth groups, nonprofits and other causes. Having more businesses in town also helps take some of the tax burden off of the rest of us.

According to the city, a University of Minnesota-Duluth study that reviewed the economic impact of amateur hockey in two other Minnesota communities found that each out-of-town hockey member spends an average of $45 to $135 a day — not to mention that these hockey players are usually accompanied by a couple family members each.

In addition to the projects proposed at City Arena, which will be the largest out of the total cost, the proposed project at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center would expand accessibility for people with disabilities attending events at the theater, replace the front windows and add LED lighting and HVAC automation. The project at the Aquatic Center would replace failing equipment, replace the lighting with LEDs and provide some limited remodeling.

The project near the splash pad would offer much-needed public restrooms downtown. We appreciate the city’s efforts in exploring ways to reduce threats of potential vandalism at the site, with the addition of remote-access programmable locks for the restrooms, as well as exterior cameras monitored by the Albert Lea Police Department.

For us, the project boils down to supporting our community’s youth and opportunities for them looking into the future.

While others supported these facilities for previous generations in the past, it is now our opportunity to do the same for future generations.