Exclusive sit down interview with Steve Donner about the future of First Arena

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — A new lease for First Arena was signed Wednesday morning. The agreement between Chemung County IDA and Tadross Donner Sports and Entertainment, LLC will not only bring sports and entertainment to the community but also new economic opportunities.

The new tenants say they want to open the recreational facility before the new year with the hopes of revitalizing the main arena by January 2022.

“We’re not coming with a magic wand. We can turn a switch and turn all the challenges that have happened in the past into something positive,” Steve Donner told 18 News in an exclusive interview.

Donner says discussions are underway for an Elmira hockey team to enter the Federal Hockey League season already in progress, which would require changes to multiple team schedules. If the move is not possible, a new hockey would come to Elmira for the 2021-22 season.

Chemung County IDA board member and Elmira City Manager Mike Collins said the move is positive for downtown development. Despite calls and concerns about demolition, Collins believes the arena is a downtown staple that deserves to stay.

“I knew in my heart of hearts they wouldn’t do a demo. This is an asset to downtown Elmira,” Collins added.

The new plans call for a long-term savings plan, taking a portion of the revenue generated at every event and saving it for future expenses.

“We do have a plan to maintain the facility properly this time with some of the revenues that are generated by the building,” CCIDA Executive Director Joe Roman said.

A new community, public and private partnership is forming in the city. They are just excited to get started.

“We need the entire community to support this and we’re willing to take it a step at a time to get to know each other. Hopefully, they’ll see our intent is pure and they’ll trust us the longer we’re here,” Donner concluded.

Donner also says he is in talks to bring either lacrosse or soccer to Elmira, both of which he has ties with as a co-founder of the National Lacrosse League and with both Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League.

Elmira College President Lindsey said the college’s hockey programs will look to form a “strategic partnership” with First Arena but there are still details to work out to bring college hockey downtown.

Donner says discussions have also been had regarding a college hockey tournament in First Arena.

Donner says his group has already booked multiple concerts and comedy acts, including Frank Stallone and former Saturday Night Live cast member Jon Lovitz.

“This is just the beginning,” said Donner, who also announced that a national tattoo convention would be coming for three days to the building.

The rec rink is also expected to reopen in December for youth hockey and Donner says they plan to keep the arena open year-round for youth hockey.

“We’ve got a home run here,” said Chemung County Deputy Executive David Sheen, who also serves on the IDA.

Donner also said that Michael Tadross Jr., a Hollywood producer who worked as Assistant Director on the 2007 “I Am Legend”, is the partner in the LLC.

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