ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Just weeks before the new Elmira River Sharks hit the ice for the first time on Friday October 13th, crews inside First Arena are busy working on several renovations. They include all new team boxes, new penalty boxes, new dasher boards, and new yellow kick plates as well as red and blue lines. Crews also changing all of the locks at the Arena. The former practice rink is being transformed into turf for sports like soccer and lacrosse.
“Basically, what we’re doing right now is we’re cleaning up the arena itself,” said Mark Margeson, the Chairman of the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency. “We’re replacing all the dashboards, all the blue lines, red lines, yellow lines, everything that deals with the boards on the inside of the arena. We’re also dealing with the team boxes. The floors have been replaced or they’re being replaced as we speak. So, they’re going to be all new. It’s just a big cleanup effort to get the facility back to where it should be. 23 years of abuse is being taken care of.”
“Are we talking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars?” asked 18 News reporter Nick Dubina.
“Definitely, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. The arena is a very expensive facility to manage and maintain,” said Margeson.
The arena is now being managed by the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency, which also owns the building, after its previous tenant, Steve Donner of Mammoth Sports & Entertainment, was evicted in May. Mr. Donner was accused of breaching the lease by not paying more than $250,000 in utility bills. Mr. Donner accused the IDA of breaching the lease for “delinquent maintenance” of the facility’s HVAC system.
Efforts are also underway to secure comprehensive insurance for the arena before opening day.
“So, Mark provided this proposal to me. As you know, Mark is in the insurance business,” said Executive Director Joe Roman, at a meeting last week of the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency and the Chemung County Capital Resource Corporation. “He said it was extremely difficult to get this insurance proposal. It was produced by Kevin Murray and Gannon Associates. The insurer is from Cincinnati. This will insure us for all operations at the arena going forward. The price tag is a little bit unsettling. But as Mark says, we really have no choice and you have to have insurance. The total price tag of what I’m looking for the approval for our total annual premium for all coverage is going to be about $95,000. “
Board member Dawn Burlew chaired the meeting because Mr. Margeson was not present. Burlew is Director of Business Development and Global Affairs at Corning Inc. She is also the Town Supervisor of the Town of Erin.
“So, and I’m not saying anything was wrong, but I have an issue with Mark being the insurance guy, reaching out and getting us an insurance policy quote. That just does not sit right,” Burlew told other IDA board members at meeting last week.
“But it’s not his company” said Elmira City Manager Michael Collins.
“No, but I’m just saying, no that’s just not right. You need a separation, somebody else needs to do that, and if its 95,000 we need multiple quotes.”
Margeson told 18 News several bids were sought while working with Gannon Associates. Mr. Margeson says the risks associated with operating an arena make it very difficult to secure coverage.
“So as the Chairman, my job was to help secure the insurance,” Margeson told 18 News. “So what I did is provided all of the underwriting information to the Gannon agency, Kevin Murray to be exact. Kevin and I worked together to go out and research bids on the insurance. It has nothing to do with my agency. It all has to do with the Gannon Agency that put together the applications. They put it out to bid and typically they’ll go out to four or five different markets. And Cincinnati was the most favorable market available for this type of facility. So, my part of it was simply providing underwriting information so that they could secure a quote. My agency has absolutely nothing to do with the insurance. I have nothing to do with the insurance. It was just kind of odd that that perception was out there. But I I’m in a position where I would never put myself in that position where someone would question me in regard to my loyalty to the IDA or the Capital Resource Group and generate an income stream from that.”
“I spoke with Dawn and her idea was not to imply that I was writing the insurance. She felt that the public could get that perception. She wanted to make sure that it was not the perception of the public. It may have come out incorrectly, it’s not a problem. The bottom line is I have nothing to do with the insurance,” said Margeson.
18 News reached out to IDA Board Member Dawn Burlew at the Town of Erin Supervisor’s office. She did not return our message before publication.
18 News also reached out to prior tenant Steve Donner of Mammoth Sports & Entertainment to ask how much he paid to insure the arena under his administration. In an email, Mr. Donner said:
“It was about $30,000 a year. Standard liability insurance.”
18 News also reached out to Robbie Nichols, the owner of the Elmira Enforcers who operated the arena for three years before Mr. Donner. Nichols told 18 News he also paid around $90,000 dollars a year to insure the arena. In a phone call, Mr. Nichols said “The County is finding out it takes a lot of money to run a hockey arena. It’s a lot easier when you are using taxpayer money. I doubt Mr. Margeson is using his own money. I paid all of our NYSEG bills, the insurance, and all bills for three years while I was there. I never missed a payment.”
The River Sharks are also looking for volunteers to help the team navigate the inaugural season. An informational meeting will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at the “Fandemonium” sports bar inside the arena. Positions include camera operators, game day helpers, and off ice officials.