Chemung County IDA considering demolition of First Arena amid repair cost concerns

Elmira Enforcers

CHEMUNG COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) – Demolition of First Arena in downtown Elmira is under consideration as the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency weighs the cost of repairing the building.

During a meeting of the IDA on Thursday morning, the board approved a resolution to receive an estimate for multiple costs to repair damage inside the building, as well as an estimate to tear down the arena.

IDA Board Chairman David Sheen stated in a presentation that a “preliminary inspection of the facility reveals several challenges that need to be addressed by the board” and that “some of the issues may impede the sale or lease of the facility.”

The presentation outlined the following issues regarding the building:

  • Door locks (Paid $1200-1400 to change the locks)
  • Air quality
  • HVAC
  • Roof leaks
  • Exterminator (rodents)
  • Mold
  • Facilities attendant to handle upkeep of the building
  • Fire alarm (Multiple issues)

Images in the presentation showed mold throughout the building, including in the locker room, under the practice rink, and under the floors. Mice excrements were also found throughout the building.

According to Sheen, there is a “terrible roof problem” with multiple leaks, standing water, and grass growing from the 21-year-old roof. The fire alarm system is also considered “obsolete” with multiple faults that may not be able to be fixed due to the age of the system.

A member of the board noted that the IDA is in violation of their insurance policy due to the issues with the fire alarm.

Sheen stated that a study was conducted by Hunt Engineers in May and found that the costs to repair the arena would be $6-8 million.

The resolution initially proposed would take care of the door lock expenses and acquire estimates to: hire an exterminator, hire an air quality and mold removal service, hire a facilities attendant, find a temporary fix for the roof, remove “stuff” left behind, address the fire alarm, and examine the HVAC unit.

Included in the resolution was the approval to receive an estimate on what it would cost to tear down the arena. The addition of demolition costs to the resolution was proposed by IDA Treasurer Thomas M. Carr, who also serves as President & CEO of Elmira Savings Bank.

“I think it’s going to be very hard to move forward based on what I saw and what I think it’s going to cost to fix that building,” said Carr. “I think it’s gonna be very difficult to make the decision to move forward with those types of maintenance costs without knowing what the other way out is, especially considering that I don’t really think the arena from an investment standpoint is a going concern. And you know, as treasurer of the IDA, we don’t want to drain our bank accounts.”

The slideshow can be viewed below:

Following the presentation and vote to approve collecting estimates, the IDA Board went into an executive session.

Martin Losito, an Elmira resident, reacted to the news of a possible demolition.

“Once you rip it down, we can’t bring it back,” said Losito. “They ripped down all of the other old buildings in Elmira that could have been saved and maybe used for shops or something to keep businesses going.”

Sara Caldwell, a local business owner, said First Arena could be a great spot for concerts. However, her main concern is that the Elmira officials keep the local community in mind.

“I believe that the city of Elmira is going to do their best and I hope that they look at every aspect of it,” said Caldwell. “From business owners, to the folks in need in the community, to what’s going to be best for the taxpayers, because ultimately that is who is footing the bill.”

First Arena has been vacant since the IDA’s lease with Elmira Enforcers owner Robbie Nichols expired on July 16 with no extension or resolution following three seasons of FPHL hockey.

Nichols spoke to 18 Sports on July 7 and said he put a lot of money and time into the arena.

“[We] brought the arena back to life and after three years, especially a COVID year, where we paid a lot of the bills to keep the arena running.”

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