ELMIRA, NY – The potential sale of the Elmira Jackals hit a snag this past week and its left the franchise in a precarious position.
Tuesday, the City of Elmira announced they won’t be giving money to the First Arena to contribute toward the replacement of the arena’s ice plant and $700,000 in outstanding payables due by the Elmira Jackals at the end of the season.
After the announcement of the City council members voting unanimously on deciding not to provide funds for the arena upgrades, Elmira City Manager Michael Collins told WETM-TV they felt fine paying the $750,000 needed for the ice plant but didn’t feel comfortable paying the extra $700,000 asked by the county. Also if the plan was approved, the city would have spread payouts over five years, raising property taxes by three percent annually. The current proposed 2017 budget already has a 4.2 percent tax increase.
“It was a tough decision and we did not take it lightly,” Collins told WETM. “I certainly don’t want to see the First Arena go dark I know our mayor doesn’t, our council doesn’t but I think that we are responsible to the taxpayers here in the City of Elmira and we were looking at their best interest.”
The news comes at a time when the current owners of the arena, the Industrial Development Agency of Chemung County told the Elmira Star-Gazette “We have enough cash on hand to operate the arena for another week.”
WETM in Elmira also reports a counter-offer was made earlier in the week, with the city putting in half of the cost of the ice plant — which is estimated to be around $1.5 million dollars — depending on the cost of a total ice plant replacement or a significant updating of it.
“We still have to have a conversation with the prospective owner to see if that’s satisfactory,” IDA director Mike Krusen told WETM.
Collins said the City is looking into the new offer.
“There’s one option we’re looking at that we would entertain if the county would be interested,” said Collins. “We currently have some numbers figured out on how we would pay that back. We certainly do not want to increase taxes for that $750,000 to be paid back, so we have an idea, it is being reviewed.”
It is not known how long it will take for a decision to be made on this latest offer, but the IDA has said the fate of the arena is now in the City’s hands.
Without the addition funds from the city, the sale with the perspective owner seems less likely to go through. One of the conditions of the deal was that the County would replace the ice plant before the sale becomes official.
Sources tell The Sin Bin the interested buyer is a local guy with connections to the NHL and is willing to make a multi-million dollar investment into other parts of the arena. The biggest thing that separates this potential owner compared to others is that he is willing to mitigate the operating losses without asking the county to guarantee the losses.
With everything currently up in the air, Elmira Jackals Vice President Bob Thomas is still doing business as usual.
From his first game as a fan and spectator to his position now with the team, the Elmira Jackals and the arena have been apart of him and his families life. “I have plenty of great memories at First Arena,” Thomas said. “From the first game, to “the fight” game against Adirondack, Pink in the Rink every year, Zooperstars with my son, there are so many unique events that could have only happened here.”
Even with the specter of the team going dark in the next few weeks, the Jackals front office is continuing to forge ahead with planning for the remainder of the season.
“We are constantly trying to get better, both on and off the ice. Look for new promotions and in-game elements as we move through the second half of the season,” Thomas Said.
“Our Director of Hockey Operations, Jared Abbott, and Coach Mike Duco are exploring every option to win games. Yes, it has been a frustrating season to say the least. We are not happy with our record, but I can assure you no one is throwing in the towel.”
Still, Thomas admits, he cannot imagine seeing Elmira without minor league hockey.
“I can not imagine a fall or a winter without minor league hockey in Elmira. I want my son to grow up coming to Jackals’ games. I have to believe that we will get through this transition, and be so much better and stronger on the other side.”
The Sin Bin reached out the Chemung County for comment on this story, and have not heard back from a county media representative.
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