The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Board of Directors has approved a new agreement with the Rapid City Rush hockey team.
During the board's regular meeting Tuesday morning at the civic center, members voted to approve a five-year contract with a three-year option between the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena and the Rush.
The originally proposed contract was a five-year contract with a five-year option. The length of time was adjusted Tuesday after Civic Center Executive Director Craig Baltzer said he was approached by the Rush's new ownership. The Rush hoped to align its contract with the civic center to its league contract with the ECHL, which would have been a three-year contract with two three-year options.
Baltzer said he understood the reasoning behind the request, but noted the Rush are already into the second year of their contract with the ECHL (for the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 seasons), meaning there would be just two years left.
"We just went through a phase where we put some investment into the team, and we want to make sure we recoup that investment," Baltzer said, referencing the civic center's recent $248,047 payment to help cover the Rush's financial losses in the 2018-19 season. "I don’t feel very confident in just a two-year commitment from them on the first leg of this contract."
He recommended the board stick with a five-year contract to start, with a three-year option. That would then line the Rush's civic center contract up with its league contracts, he said.
Board members Dan Kline, Gary Brown and Brad Estes unanimously approved the recommendation. Members Donna Winkler and Michael Diedrich were not at the meeting.
The base fee the Rush will pay to use the facility is $3,500 per game, and the Rush gets a $1.25 rebate per ticket per game, based on the number of tickets scanned at the game. The agreement is retroactive to go into effect on Feb. 8.
As promised in January when the civic center board announced its final payment to the former Rush ownership group, Baltzer said the new agreement provides more flexibility than the previous one.
In the previous agreement, Baltzer said the Rush paid more in rent, but got back a larger rebate per ticket. In the new agreement, Baltzer said the civic center basically lowered the Rush's rent, but lessened some of its incentive in ticket rebate and ancillary income (things like food and beverage sales) to even things out.
Baltzer said that means when the Rush have tougher years, it will be easier for them to survive without the civic center's help. But when they have strong years, "we're all going to be happy."
"It’s better for them when they have lower-attended games and better for us when they have higher-attended games," he said. "It was the right thing to do."
Naming rights schedule extended
Board members also approved pushing forward the civic center's timetable for naming rights recommendations.
In December, the civic center board approved sending out a request for proposals to local businesses interested in paying for naming rights, which could be for the new arena, the entire civic center, or any of the rooms within.
The original schedule listed Feb. 11 as the submission deadline and Feb. 26 as the date of a recommendation to the board. The new timeline set that date as March 12, with staff noting the original deadline proved to be too tight of a turnaround.
That also pushed back the date to have a contract or agreement signed from March 27. That is now scheduled for April 23, with a public announcement and signing slated for that same day.
Baltzer said there were several responses to the request for proposals, but declined to provide further details until the committee makes a recommendation.