The future of Elmira’s First Arena has been in question for most of 2016, but there could be answers within the next month.
First Arena is home of the Elmira Jackals hockey team. Both have been owned by the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency since June.
The group hopes to sell both by the end of January.
Mike Krusen is the head of Southern Tier Economic Growth, which supports the Chemung County IDA. He said there’s an interested buyer. The identity of that person hasn’t been released.
Krusen said the buyer understands the arena, and the Jackals, are not likely to make money. "Now the person hopes that they can drive to break even. That’s what this person’s goal is, to break even," he explained. "Not to say ‘oh geez, I made a million dollars on hockey in Elmira last year’. That’s not going to happen."
The new owner will inherit an arena that needs significant renovations. Krusen expects those to cost $5 million to $6 million.
Meanwhile, Krusen's hope is avoid using taxpayer dollars on the arena. "This isn’t 'here, let the community spend $5 million and you go spend $500,000 a year.' That’s not this case. That’s never going to be the case here," he explained. "Break even, perhaps slightly in the black, that would be a grand slam.”
Krusen said in hindsight, maybe the arena shouldn’t have been built downtown because the City of Elmira is less able to spend money on it. He also said an empty facility doesn’t benefit a city that’s trying to energize its downtown.