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DL hockey school slaps its last shot

The city has ended its lease with International Hockey Schools in Detroit Lakes, and is pursuing collection of an unpaid utility and one-month rent bill in the "five figures," said City Administrator Bob Louiseau.

"They are not, as far as we can tell, in business -- they did not pay their utility bill," Louiseau said. "We sent them a letter to terminate them."

City officials do not have a working phone number for the hockey school's point person -- Jason Power of the St. Louis, Mo., area. He could not be reached for comment.

Louiseau said the city is pursuing the debt, and that he cannot be more specific about the amount because electric utility bills are not public under state law.

He added that the Detroit Lakes Youth Hockey Association is considering running a camp this summer, and is researching the possibility with city staff.

"The International Hockey School was run very well for many years," Louiseau said. "It was operated by folks out of Fargo."

The kids and staff would sleep in a building in the fairgrounds temporary converted into a dorm. The Fair Board received rent.

The city never lost money on the operation in the past, Louiseau said, "we just never made a lot of money on it."

But the school brought people to Detroit Lakes and was good for the city's economy, he said.

"It wasn't a big money-maker," Louiseau said, "but it brought a lot of people to town, people from as far as Nebraska and even Europe when it was at its peak."

The Fargo owners sold the hockey school to a company in California, which a few years ago sold it to the group in the St. Louis area.

After the Fargo owners sold, the city noticed changes that indicated the school wasn't thriving -- fewer weeks of operation, for example.

And the major downturn in the national economy of the past few years didn't help the situation, Louiseau said.

"Ultimately, the bills weren't getting paid," he said.

The more weeks per summer that the hockey school operated, the more cost-effective it was for the owners, because a lot of the utility costs are up-front with the labor-intensive making of the ice, Louiseau said.

The school operated on a three-year lease for 2010, 2011 and 2012 -- agreeing to pay the city $7,500 a week for first year, pegged to the inflation index for the following two years.

Lease payments were due monthly. The hockey school was given exclusive use of the two arenas (including locker rooms and the concession stand) during lease period.

The school was also responsible for all utility bills (electric, water, sewer, natural gas) from ice start-up to the conclusion of that year's session -- and it had to carry liability insurance for accidents and injuries of $300,000 per person and $1 million per occurrence.

Detroit Lakes Youth Hockey was also part of the lease agreement.

DLYH agreed to sublease the arena space for $5,200 a week (for 58 hours of ice time per week) and agreed to pay prorated utility costs for its ice time.

DLYH was also required to carry a $1 million liability insurance policy.

The lease called for the International Hockey School occupancy period to start the first full week of June and last for at least four but no more than eight weeks, with an option for one additional week if all parties agreed.