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The Decision, Alpena style

June 21, 2011 - Steve Murch
The presentations have been made and the decision on the future management of the Northern Lights Arena is now in the hands of the Alpena County commissioners. It's a decision they can't be wrong on.

Whether you supported the arena or not when the millages were voted on, it's here now and it's a good facility — one the county can be proud to own. While there have been some ups and downs getting established during its existence, there's no disputing it's light years better than Mich-e-ke-wis. And, if it hadn't come to fruition, there's no guarantee Mich-e-ke-wis would be a functional facility now. At some point the old ice barn was going to start costing large chunks of money in upkeep; once a building like that — basically exposed to nothing but harsh cold — begins to age it's bound to start falling apart, even if it's a little bit at a time. After a while it begins to add up.

When you look at the proposals and presentations, it appears there is really only one choice. I wouldn't say it's by default, but it should be simple based on the facts. The Multi-Purpose Arena Coalition and Park Family Foundation made presentations, and since Virginia-based The Rink Management Group didn't make a proposal, it should be removed from consideration. If you can't make an effort to make a public showing when that is what is called for, then you shouldn't be in the mix.

M-PAC should be the choice, though it isn't the slam dunk you might think. There are, and have been, people associated with the group who rankle some commissioners. There has to be a good working relationship with the county and having some members who march to the beat of their own drummer isn't going to cut it, so it's understandable why some commissioners are reluctant.

Park Family Foundation simply didn't follow all the rules when submitting its proposal; M-PAC did. Park Family Foundation left out information in its proposal and then during its Q&A with commissioners Jim Park didn't directly answer a question about who would be in charge of rink operations. M-PAC completely filled out the request for proposal. It should be pointed out that Park Family Foundation's proposal legally met the criteria.

Imagine you are an employer and you interview two candidates for a job greeting the public and helping answer questions and give directions. Who do you choose, the one who wears blue jeans and wrinkled T-shirt but answers all your questions, or the one with a pressed dress shirt and pants but either avoids answering questions or does some misdirection (both are a little more extreme analogies than what occurred Monday, but you get the point)? I don't completely trust someone who doesn't answer my questions, it makes me think they're hiding something.

So maybe it's by default, but M-PAC should be the choice simply based on the fact you know everything you are getting with them. Sure there are issues, but you have to give them credit, M-PAC officials laid all their cards on the table.

It would have been interesting to have learned The Rink Management Group's plan. Yes, it is a for-profit company and not based in Michigan. But there is something to be said about a company that is watching its bottom line and trying to make money, especially one with rinks in several states. It knows what it's doing and will keep an eye on its pennies (and dollars, too).

So now we wait until the commissioners make their decision. Regardless of the choice, the community needs to support the decision — we're too small of a community to fracture over an arena.


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