READ IT: First Arena engineering report finds building in “satisfactory condition”

Elmira Enforcers

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – First Arena will remain dark this season after the building’s owners, the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), and Elmira Enforcers owner Robbie Nichols could not come to terms on a new lease agreement.

Following the end of Nichols’ lease, the IDA took “functional control” of the building and ordered an engineering study be done on the building. In a July 15 press release, IDA Executive Director Joe Roman stated “this is intended to be a temporary situation while the CCIDA considers all options for First Arena, as multiple organizations have expressed interest.”

The IDA hired Hunt Engineers to conduct a full facilities assessment on the building. During a July 29 IDA meeting, 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.”

During the same meeting, it was revealed that it would cost approximately $6-8 million to restore First Arena. 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.

18 News filed a Freedom of Information Law request to obtain the Hunt Engineers Facilities Assessment and received the document, as well as the IDA’s contract with CAN-USA and code violations involving the arena.

According to the Hunt Engineers Facilities Assessment performed for the IDA, First Arena was found to be in “satisfactory condition with minimal items that could be considered critical in nature.”

The report continues to say that the “sum total of all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance and Health & Safety items needing repair is less than $500,000 raw construction cost.”

The building’s roof and mechanical system replacements were deemed “priority issues” in the report’s conclusion of the building’s conditions. Those repairs with other items deemed “critical” would total “approximately 35% of the total raw construction value of all recommendations.”

If the IDA were to agree to the entire list of repairs in the facilities assessment as listed with no other bids, the price with adjustments to inflation and incidental costs would be over $8 million.

Listed below are some of the “significant recommendations” outlined in the report, including repairs to the asphalt, roof, ice rink cooling system, and updates to the building’s technology.

The report outlines various categories of recommended repairs needed for the building, listed as follows:

Some of the individual repair/replacement recommendations in the report include $20,000 to replace outdoor fencing, $400,000 to renovate bathrooms, $350,000 to replace ceiling tiles, and $1.5 million to replace the rink cooling system.

The cost of individual recommendations in the report is laid out below.

“This is like a Christmas wish list,” said Nichols when addressing the engineering study.

“We’re not saying the eight million is the number,” said IDA Executive Director Joe Roman. “It may be substantially different.”

The full Hunt Engineers facilities assessment of First Arena can be read below:

Messages were also left unanswered for employees at Hunt Engineering for follow-up questions regarding the report.

During the July IDA meeting, board member Thomas Carr raised the possibility of demolishing First Arena if the cost of repairing it was too high.

“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 IDA has since received a $1.2 million bid to demolish the arena, but has not finalized any plans to do so.

“A sane person wouldn’t say tear down First Arena,” said Nichols.

A facilities attendant has also been hired to handle issues inside the building and the IDA has hired a company to conduct an appraisal on the building.

As of Oct. 29, Nichols says he has not heard from the IDA regarding negotiations for reopening the arena. Roman says Nichols still needs to turn over financial documents in order for the IDA to negotiate, but Nichols says the IDA never told him that.

“I would just need to know,” said Nichols.

The IDA says they have received interesting the building from other parties, but could not disclose details on those talks.

“We continue to work on pursuing options that are available to us and as the options become more material the plan will become more and more moving forward,” said Roman.

Roman says despite rumors and accusations being made in the community, the county is not colluding to keep Nichols out of the arena.

“There is no grand master plan that has been hatched as a result of this,” stated Roman. “We are just continuing to work with the various options and when the best option comes forward that’s what we’re going to work with.”

Nichols believes regardless of who is running the arena, it needs to be open for the youth and men hockey leagues and for the rest of the community.

“The arena needs to be open for the citizens.”

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