Private hockey school makes public headlines

Bauer-Emerson Prep located in former North St. Paul Community Center

Bauer-Emerson Prep in North St. Paul has made its way into the headlines for a slew of reasons lately. Most recently, the start-up private school has been sued by Bauer Hockey, Inc. for copyright infringement on its name. Earlier in the summer, the school removed itself voluntarily from the Minnesota State High School League.

What is Bauer-Emerson Prep?

The school is an outgrowth of the former Achiever Academy, a private school with a hockey focus, which met at the Eagan Civic Arena starting in 2012. 

Business partners Greg Gartner and Tom Forsythe came to the project a little over a year ago with detailed plans and big goals. And today, Bauer-Emerson is a private school with an extremely competitive hockey program, and gets its funding through student tuition.

Classes, which will kick off for its inaugural year this fall, will be split up between in-class learning at the former North St. Paul Community Center and online. 

"Greg Gartner and I acquired the assets of the school when it was in financial trouble," Forsythe explained. "Our goal was to allow the kids to finish out their season and then see how we could contribute to improve the program in the years ahead."

Bauer-Emerson Prep is currently housed in the former North St. Paul Community Center next to various School District 622 functions and a Ramsey County branch library. 

The reasons behind going with the community center stem from Gartner's and Forsythe's knowledge of the community center's troubles.

"Publicity surrounding the community center and its cash flow issues," Forsythe said when asked why the building was on the academy's radar. "We met with the (North St. Paul) city officials and started a dialogue about our program and how it could mutually benefit the community and our kids."

North St. Paul Mayor Mike Kuehn said when the pair approached the city about leasing space in the former community center — the city still owns the facility — he was impressed by the sounds of the program, for which, he noted "parents are paying a significant number for tuition." 

The academy's presence, he said, would help draw people into the city. 

"It seemed like a positive fit. It would generate a traffic movement for parents and student activity. 

"It's been a good fit for us, the city and the (county) library," Kuehn added. "So far, the parents like the aspects of the facility."

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District also leases out a portion of the building.

Sparking headlines off the rink

The school ran into a bit of trouble recently, getting sued by nationwide hockey product distributor Bauer Hockey, Inc., over Gartner and Forsythe changing its name after the relaunch in North St. Paul. 

According to reports, Gartner and Forsythe maintain the name had nothing to with Bauer Hockey. They said bauer, the German word for farmer, is supposed to allude to work ethic. Emerson refers to American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, advocate of the idea and practice of "self reliance".

Their hockey team, named "The Revolution", is a hockey-centered prep school that gets its funding through the same means as the school, plus additional sporting funds that you'd see at most hockey programs. 

Recently, the school opted to leave the Minnesota State High School League for hockey, and instead will play with the North American Prospects Hockey League —  a league made up of 32 Midget Major (ages 18 and under) and Midget Minor (ages 16 and under) teams from 16 programs nationwide that compete at the USA Hockey Tier I level. 

The Minnesota State High School League chose not to comment, only to say that "every school chooses" which group it plays with." 

"Adding the Bauer-Emerson Revolution to the NAPHL strengthens our league as a whole, and gives us a very competitive line-up for the 2014-15 season," said NAHL Commissioner and NAPHL President Mark Frankenfeld.

"Bauer-Emerson has some very strong leadership in place both on and off the ice, and their program guidelines and mission are a perfect fit for a team competing in the NAPHL."

The reasoning behind the move may have sparked some interest from locals, but was an obvious choice for Forsythe. 

"Many of our students come from out of state. We tend to attract elite players at all ages," Forsythe said. "In some cases, our players are not eligible for High School sports because of residency rules. Participation in Tier 1 hockey is less restrictive in this regard." 

A place to practice

The school, originally set to use the Polar Arena in North St. Paul, will opt to instead use the Vadnais Sports Center in Vadnais Heights for their hockey practices.

Ramsey County owns the Vadnais ice rink and after a meeting Aug. 19, it was determined that the hockey team will be able to use the sports center at a discounted rate. They will use the facilities Monday through Friday during the day, a point that Jon Oyanagi, director of Ramsey County parks and recreation, says won't affect any current use of rink time. 

"That's our non-prime hours, and it's difficult for us to find people to use that," Oyanagi said. "They were a good potential user, because they'd use a lot of hours, and all season long, and all week long. That was very attractive to use. They said they couldn't afford our rate, so we worked out a new figure after negotiations."

The normal rate is $115 per hour, and Bauer-Emerson will be able to use the facilities for $90 per hour. In addition, the school will be donating scholarships to their hockey camps and clinics as part of the agreement to receive the discounted rate for ice time. 

Also, the fitness equipment that was once part of the North St. Paul Community Center will be loaned to the Vadnais Sports Center, Oyanagi said.

You can reach Tim Faklis at 651-748-7814, at tfaklis@lillienews.com, or on Twitter @tfaklisnews. 

 
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