MANSFIELD — Depending on where one stands, the prospect of Mansfield Independent School District getting into the ice arena business is either a “win-win,” or just plain bad business.
On Thursday night, the district board will hold a public hearing to consider tossing in $1.8 million dollars for a Dallas Stars ice center near Highway 287 and East Broad Street.
The city council already agreed to pitch in $12 million for the proposed 80,000-square-foot facility, which the Stars would repay with a long-term lease, according to an article published in the Star-Telegram.
But the project’s viability is now dependent upon a district decision to join in the partnership when the district doesn’t even officially have any ice-related athletics.
"To me, you're making a decision based on how many kids play [club] hockey league in Mansfield," said Ben Smith, a local father who has three children in the district.
He said parents at one of his children’s elementary schools recently had to fundraise to simply buy more books for the library. He thinks the money could be easily spent elsewhere.
A community Facebook page that tracks the school district is also filled with questions from concerned parents, one user writing “This is ridiculous.”
From where Jenny Conrad stands, though, there is a lot of misinformation about just what is being proposed.
Her daughter is a figure skater and her son is a youth hockey player.
“There are no facilities south of I-20,” she said on Tuesday.
More than two years ago, Conrad started pushing for the Stars to consider Mansfield after noticing the team’s other successful partnerships with cities like Frisco, one of seven where Dr Pepper StarCenters are already in place. She says all parties have worked overtime to get a reasonable proposal in the works.
“I understand when there are school dollars, there are questions,” she said. “But this just isn’t hockey. Birthday parties, or field trip opportunities the schools will have without paying to go to Dallas or Fort Worth, I think there are just so many opportunities for the facility."
Conrad said there are hundreds of families that either play hockey or have children that figure skate living in Mansfield ISD. Almost 800 people had liked a Facebook page in favor of the arena.
The student body is almost 34,000 kids district-wide.
Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas distributed a Q&A letter on Friday to clarify some positions. He said no campus budgets would be impacted by the investment, and that the money would likely flow from oil and gas revenue the district collects from leases.
The district would put in $500,000 up front, and then pay the Stars the remainder over five years in exchange for access and physical fitness services for students and staff.
Parents on both sides of the issue are encouraged to attend Thursday evening’s meeting at 7 p.m. at the Mansfield Center for Performing Arts.