Edina, Minn., July 20, 2023 – On Tuesday, July 18, the Edina City Council approved a referendum for this November’s election that will ask Edina voters to decide whether to use collections from the City’s half-percent sales tax to invest $25.3 million to expand Braemar Arena and complete other major improvements at the facility.
If approved, the South Rink at Braemar Arena would be demolished to allow the building of two new ice rinks, resulting in a total of four indoor rinks and one outdoor seasonal rink at the arena. Other major upgrades include the construction of a safer drop-off and pick-up area, a new and larger lobby and additional parking.
“These investments will provide better accessibility, more ice time for skating enthusiasts and a better overall experience that residents told us they want,” said Parks & Recreation Director Perry Vetter.
The Braemar Arena expansion is the second part of a comprehensive $64.6 million plan to invest in Braemar Parks and Arena and Fred Richards Park. In November 2022, Edina voters approved Phase One of the plan – a local half-percent sales tax to finance $39.3 million in improvement projects at Fred Richards and Braemar parks. The investments include new trails, additional courts for pickleball and basketball, new playgrounds, nature preservation and critical infrastructure repairs and upgrades at Braemar Arena.
City leaders said if voters approved Phase One, they would move to complete the investment plan by pursuing the expansion of Braemar Arena. This past spring, the City received legislative approval to allow Edina residents to decide whether to use the same half-percent sales tax to fund the Braemar Arena expansion plan.
“Last year, Edina residents made it clear that investments in parks and recreation are important to them,” said City Manager Scott Neal. “Now, voters have another opportunity to decide if they want to complete the investment plan at Braemar Arena.”
If approved by voters, the Braemar Arena expansion plan would not change the current sales tax rate or extend the tax beyond its 19-year authorization. Approval of the expansion would also not affect the funding previously approved for Braemar and Fred Richards parks.
One of the busiest ice arenas in Minnesota, Braemar Arena hosts approximately 500,000 visitors every year from 158 Minnesota communities and 12 states. Due to high demand, Edina residents often must travel across the Twin Cities metro area to participate in hockey and skating activities.
The sales tax, which went into effect on April 1, spreads the tax impact of the investment among residents and nonresidents who make purchases in Edina. Approximately 54 percent of the sales tax increase will be paid by nonresidents, according to an analysis by the University of Minnesota. That means nonresidents would contribute approximately $13.7 million toward the cost of the Braemar Arena expansion through the sales tax.
City leaders began gathering input from residents in 2016 regarding the needs of Fred Richards Park and Braemar Park and Arena. Feedback from community meetings and surveys helped shape the investment plan.
“Our recreational amenities like Braemar help make Edina a vibrant destination to live and play,” Vetter said. “This is an important community decision. We encourage all residents to make their voice heard at the ballot box.”
To learn more about the investment plan and the sales tax referendum, the City of Edina continues to maintain an informational website – EdinaAtPlay.org – where residents can learn more about the projects, the financing plan and how to vote. The website also features a contact feature that allows residents to forward additional questions to the City.
Early voting for November’s elections begins on Friday, Sept. 22. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.