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GRAND FORKS: Done deal

UND, Alerus Center ink 3-year pact

Source: Grand Forks Herald, July 3, 2001

After about 18 months of negotiating, officials from Grand Forks' Alerus Center and UND signed an operating agreement Monday, making the university the prime tenant of the new city-owned events center.

"The biggest thing was trying to find the win-win situation and the common ground," said Alerus Center executive director Jeff Kossow about the lengthy contract deliberation. "We had to ask ourselves, 'How can the Alerus Center stand up and be fiscally responsible for the taxpayers of this community, and how can the university be fiscally responsible to its athletic department's bottom line?'"

The three-year agreement covers everything from how athletic events will be handled at the facility to tailgating and alcohol procedures during UND-sponsored events.

It makes the Alerus Center home to 12 UND athletic events per year, most of which will be football games, and a yet-to-be determined number of other nonathletic events, including UND classes, meetings and graduation ceremonies.

"The Alerus Center means a lot more to UND than just football being played here," said UND President Charles Kupchella. "We believe it will have a great recruiting potential (for nonathlete students) in the future."

Contract terms

The contract guarantees the city through the Alerus Center will get a minimum of $38,500 from UND to cover staffing and maintenance needs at seven home Fighting Sioux football games in 2001 ($5,500 per athletic event). The Alerus Center would receive the same amount per athletic event for the latter two years of the contract as well.

But according to Charlie Jeske, Alerus Center general manager, there's potential for both the university and the Alerus Center to make a lot more.

  • Under terms of the contract, revenue generated from the first 5,500 nonstudent tickets sold for each home athletic event would go to UND. Money from the next 1,000 tickets would be split 70 percent to UND and 30 percent to the Alerus Center under a revenue-sharing stipulation in the contract. And any money from tickets sold beyond that would be split down the middle.
  • To the benefit of the Alerus Center (and the city), the contract allows the Alerus Center to keep all concession revenue and a $1.50 facility fee on each event ticket sold.
  • Assuming 10,000 nonstudent tickets are sold for each athletic event at the Alerus Center, UND would receive $95,000 per athletic event after all of the revenue sharing from ticket sales is calculated. The Alerus Center would receive about $70,000 per event, including revenue sharing, concessions, facility fees, and the guaranteed per-game payment from UND.
  • Any other use of the Alerus Center by a college, school or department of UND would receive a 25 percent rate reduction from the facility's standard rental fee.

    Sticking point

    The contract also spells out alcohol policies and tailgating procedures that will be used during UND events.

    Kupchella said alcohol will available during UND events, but it won't be allowed in general seating, restroom or concourse areas. The sale and consumption of spirits will, instead, be restricted to areas where only people of drinking age can enter, according to the contract.

    Kossow said the hardest part about negotiating the contract was making it attractive to both UND and the Alerus Center, as well mutually beneficial.

    A negotiation sticking point was convincing UND officials to pay overhead costs associated with the school's usage after so many years at Memorial Stadium with very little overhead to worry about.

    Both sides say all the challenges were met, and they are pleased.

    "The goal of all of this was to try and figure out a way to get the university in here without any overhead burden for them that would be difficult to deal with," Kossow said. "Obviously, it will be a major change for them coming from a venue they owned and operated to a city-owned building."