PROVO — Provo took the final step Tuesday in its joint bid with Utah County to wrest control of The Peaks Ice Arena from manager Max Rabner.

The Provo City Council voted 7-0 to authorize Mayor Lewis Billings to execute a $3.5 million bond. A 4th District Court judge ruled in February that if Provo and Utah County posted the bond, Rabner would have 10 days to pay nearly $300,000 in rent he owes or be evicted for the duration of the case.

The Utah County Commission approved the bond by a 2-1 vote last week. The city and the county jointly own the arena but leased it to Rabner in 1999 after he donated land for the project. The agency the two governments created to oversee the arena, the Provo City/Utah County Ice Sheet Authority, has engaged in public battles with Rabner ever since.

Rabner's company is separate from the Seven Peaks Water Park, which is not connected to the litigation.

After the City Council's vote, Billings signed the paperwork to execute the bond. He said city and county attorneys would inform Judge Derek Pullan about the bond, and Pullan will decide when the 10-day clock begins to run.

Rabner said again Tuesday that he can and will deposit the rent with the court. He owes $286,381 for annual rent payments due in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

If Rabner deposits the rent with the court, he will continue to manage the arena and the lawsuit will continue toward a trial.

"We've been trying to pay the rent since this (dispute) began," Rabner said. "They've chosen not to take it. They've been the ones saying, 'We won't take the money — we'll take the money and the property.' "

Provo sued to terminate Rabner's lease in 2003, alleging he missed the annual rent payment. Rabner said he presented a check in time. The case appears to hinge on the way Provo presented the check to the bank.

With the case pending, Rabner refused to pay the 2004 and 2005 rents because the judge, the city and the county would not assure him that if he paid, his 14-year lease would be honored. The lease can be extended to 42 years.

When the city and county asked Pullan to award them possession of the arena until the legal battle ends, the judge refused, but he laid out the course that led to the council and commission votes and the bond.

The actual cost of the bond is just $21,000, Ice Sheet Authority attorney James Wilde said, and will be paid for using funds in the Ice Sheet Authority's budget. The bond was designed by Pullan to secure Rabner's investment in the building if he is evicted but subsequently wins the case.

Pullan set the bond amount based on estimates Rabner included in court documents.

Billings told the council before Tuesday's vote that the Ice Sheet Authority depends on Rabner's rent payments to meet payments on previous bonds issued to pay for construction of the arena.

He said the interruption in rental payments could cause the Ice Sheet Authority to return to the council and the commission to ask them to pay for the bond payment, which would amount to $10,500 each.

Billings said if the court granted possession to the Ice Sheet Authority, it would assess the building's needs, which also could force it to ask for city and county help. He said other management companies have approached the city and that Provo Parks and Recreation has already created a strategic plan for managing the arena in case Rabner's lease is terminated or he is evicted.

"Our hope is the revenues will begin to flow again and we can have this thing carry its own weight," Billings said.

Councilman Paul Warner, a member of the Ice Sheet Authority Board, said the arena has a reputation for not being customer-friendly.


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