IDA still paying to keep First Arena open despite deal with new owner

ELMIRA, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - In March, Chemung County officials announced a deal to sell First Arena for $3.5 million to local businessman Brian Barrett. Despite the deal, the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency is still paying to keep the facility open.

In that agreement, a provision allowing Barrett to not become First Arena's owner until he finds a new hockey team to replace the Elmira Jackals.

"That has always been the deal, and I can tell you directly that he is actively pursuing that team," Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli said.

I can't argue it, I mean, it makes perfect sense," CCIDA Executive Director Mike Krusen said. "We don't want to sell the arena to somebody who doesn't have a good, solid business plan to use it."

Krusen says the IDA has been spending between $50,000 to $60,000 a month to keep the arena running on a bare-bones staff as Barrett searches for a new team. Although the chances of getting a new team in First Arena, whether it's an ECHL affiliate or not, remain slim as the impending hockey season approaches.

Both Santulli and Krusen are highly optimistic Barrett will find a replacement team. The only question is the timing of when that will happen. So far, little to no information on the search has been made public.

"Brian wants to come and deal with the press when he has his plan together so he can tell everyone what he's going to do and what it is," Santulli said.

"The last statement (Barrett) made to me is that he has no reason why he won't end up with a team," Krusen said. "He's the kind of person who doesn't say something unless he believes it."

Santulli says Barrett was and still is the best person for the job, citing his NHL connections, business expertise, and commitment to the area.

"The only other options that I know of that we had were ones where people would say, 'well, we'll run it but if we have a loss, we want you guys to make it up,'" Santulli said.

For now, IDA Executive Director Mike Krusen says recent event bookings, like the Professional Bull Riders and WWE, have helped the IDA break even on the arena for May and June. Krusen says he's hopeful that trend can continue until Barrett can find a new team.

"Hopefully we'll be able to put something together for July and hopefully by the end of the summer, Brian will have some certainty on what his next steps are and we'll go from there," Krusen said.

Both Krusen and Santulli add if Barrett is unable to bring a team to the arena this hockey season, that would allow him plenty of time to make upgrades to the facility.


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