The operator of Dubuque's Mystique Community Ice Center has informed the city that it is ending its management of the facility at the end of July.
The city announced late this afternoon that Dubuque Community Ice & Recreation Center Inc., known as DICE, informed the city last Thursday that it will "relinquish its leasehold rights" at that time.
If necessary, the city will take over the day-to-day management of the facility after the nonprofit organization bows out while it searches for a new organization to sign a new lease agreement with.
Marie Ware, leisure services manager for Dubuque, said the city intends to keep the ice center fully operational during that time and that all events and activities currently planned at the center will not be impacted.
“During the interim, the city will manage the facility,” she said. “Right now, we are learning from DICE all that we can about the organization.”
The city ice center has been under the management of DICE through a 25-year lease agreement since it opened in 2010. The facility was constructed through a development agreement among DICE, the city, Dubuque Racing Association and Battlefield Dubuque LLC, which later transferred its interest to Northern Lights Hockey, LLC, which manages the Dubuque Fighting Saints hockey team.
DICE provided the funds needed to build the ice center.
DICE President Marvin Heiderscheit said tonight that his organization has struggled for several years to keep the ice center financially feasible, listing the current lease agreement with the city as one of the primary barriers to the organization’s success.
“It became increasingly difficult to operate under the underlying agreements,” Heiderscheit said. “We no longer have the financial ability to cash flow the operation under that agreement.”
When asked what specific elements of the lease agreement created issues, Heiderscheit declined to comment.
He noted that the organization also was financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heiderscheit said DICE will continue to work with the city to ensure the transition of management occurs smoothly.
“It shouldn’t have any impact on anything,” Heiderscheit said. “We’ve agreed to work through this, and we’re going to make sure there is no impact on the users.”
Ware said the city will begin the process of finding a new manager. The development agreement requires that the city first offer the DRA the right to enter into a new lease under the same terms and conditions as the previous lease agreement. The DRA has 30 days to decide.
Kevin Lynch, chairman of the DRA's Board of Directors, said tonight that he was unaware that DICE was forfeiting its leasehold rights and couldn't comment on whether the DRA would enter the lease.
“I think that’s a decision that we would need to discuss as a board and make a decision jointly whether or not we want to take it over,” Lynch said. “We know ice hockey has become a huge fan draw, and we would love to see it stay.”
If the DRA turns down the offer, the city then must offer to enter into a lease agreement with Northern Lights Hockey, which then would have 30 days to decide.
Calls made to Northern Lights Hockey were not returned tonight.
When asked what the city plans to do if both entities turn down the lease agreement offer, Ware declined to comment.