News

County: Elmira Holding Arena Hostage

Written By: Ryan Belz
Elmira Holding Arena Hostage

Elmira, NY (WENY) -- "Sometimes I think the City of Elmira has a death wish. They try to think about ways how they can make it worse. You know, we've done everything we can do. They've made a decision, and they're going to have to live with it," said County Executive Tom Santulli.

     The future of Elmira's First Arena is uncertain, this after the city said they won't be able to put any money towards the facility, because they're not in a position to do so.

     County executives tell WENY that they're done trying to find a solution with the city, and that they believe the City of Elmira is holding the arena hostage.

     Now of course, the City of Elmira does not want First Arena to go dark, but a decision by the city council puts the arena's future on thin ice.

     "So it's clear that this is tied specificly to trying to bail out the city's current financial problems. They are holding the arena hostage to that effort. That's very unfortunate and a devastating blow to this community," said Deputy County Executive Michael Krusen.

     Over the past few weeks, First Arena has been caught in the middle of negotiations that seem to be going nowhere.

     If you remember, the City originally said they would fund $750,000 for half of the cost of the ice plant.

     Elmira Mayor Dan Mandel said, in a text message exclusively shared with WENY, he "would support that."

     That being the 750 thousand dollar payment.

     Last week, Elmira City Manager Mike Collins told us the city would be able to follow through the half payment.

     "We were asked again to split the $1.5 million for the ice plant to total $750,000 to the county. That beginning portion just for the ice plant, the City was willing to consider that? Yes, absolutely," said Elmira City Manager Mike Collins last week.

     However Thursday, that all changed as the city said they would not be able to provide money to secure first arena's future.

     Confused?

     The City of Elmira proposed to put up $750,000 every year for 10 years, a total of $7.5 million.

     After talking with the City, the IDA came up with a plan that would have saved the city $1.5 million dollars, but now the city said no.

     "I think the city forgets who brought it here. They did. They did. It was their decision, and their city to revitalize downtown Elmira, and now they're looking for the town of Baldwin to go out and pay for it. Please, please. Sometimes I wonder if the left hand knows what the right hand is doing over there," said Santulli.

     While they won't provide funding, the city doesn't want to see the arena go dark.

     "Certainly it's not a decision that was taken lightly. The city can not do that financially for the county at this time," said Collins.

     "I think it's going to have a very negative impact on a lot of the projects that are pending down there. Where someone says who wants to develop in the heart of a community that has a large empty building in the center of town," said Santulli.

     In order to get through the rest of the season, the IDA would need to put up almost half a million dollars.

     "So you'll see the IDA do the right thing and make that right, but what you'll probably see is the potential sale of the team at the end of the season in order for the IDA to be paid back for what it's put in this season," said Krusen.

     This is a constantly developing story, and to make matters worse, official say the potential local buyer could back out.

     WENY News will follow this story very closely as it continues to develop.