For months, Glens Falls Mayor John “Jack” Diamond has felt like a goalie without any teammates, trying all alone to win against a six-man hockey team.
That will change Jan. 1 when Adirondack Civic Center Coalition takes over financial responsibility for operations of Glens Falls Civic Center in a new partnership with the city and Warren County.
“I look at this as a positive relationship moving forward,” Diamond said.
The coalition, a group of about 30 area business leaders, will pay $600,000 over five years to lease the city-owned arena, with an option to purchase the arena for $1 at the end of the lease.
The coalition will be responsible for the arena’s operating losses going forward, while the city will pay off current debt.
The deal will net the city $3.1 million over five years — $600,000 in lease payments and $2.5 million in operating subsidy the city otherwise would have paid to keep the arena open, Diamond said.
Post-Star editors and reporters voted the Civic Center’s ownership uncertainty as the top story of 2014.
The arena’s outlook seemed to be brighter in May, when the Calgary Flames announced they would relocate their American Hockey League affiliate to Glens Falls.
But the arena’s fiscal condition was still bleak.
Diamond shocked the community in June when he announced the city would offer the Civic Center for sale at a public auction.
Diamond said he reached the decision after three regional arena subsidy proposals over the previous 18 months had not gotten widespread support.
No one bid at a public auction Aug. 18 that had a minimum bid of $1.5 million.
The coalition was one of two bidders at a sealed bid auction, with no minimum, Sept. 12.
Adirondack Sports & Entertainment, the other bidder, wanted to open a youth hockey academy at the Civic Center.
Two others, developer Richard Schermerhorn of Queensbury and Northway Fellowship Church of Clifton Park, submitted written proposals to the city but did not formally bid.
Adirondack Sports & Entertainment originally bid $1.535 million on a two-year lease-purchase plan, then revised its bid to $800,000 for an outright purchase.
Diamond and members of the city Common Council said the hockey academy group did not document it had the finances to buy and operate the arena.
Kevin McCloskey, a partner in the group, said Friday he and his partners are close to a deal to locate their hockey academy in a different region of the country.
“We’ll land on our feet. We just wished we could have landed up there (in Glens Falls),” he said.
Glens Falls-area residents will not notice any immediate changes when the coalition takes over the Civic Center on Jan. 1, said Dan Burke, president of the coalition board.
“There’s not going to be any dramatic changes right away,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we understand what we’ve got before we make any decisions along those lines.”
At least for now, Global Spectrum, a private management company, will continue operating the building.
“Global is managing the building. We have to reach out to them immediately and make sure we know who we’re talking to,” he said.
The coalition could not begin discussions with Global Spectrum until the lease-purchase agreement was final.
“Global and the coalition have not really talked to each other because we have no legal standing, if you will,” he said. “Until we sign that contract, no one was really comfortable on making that happen.”
Brian Petrovek, president of the Adirondack Flames, the arena’s anchor tenant, is a member of the coalition but is not on the coalition board.
It is unclear, at this point, what role Petrovek will play in oversight of the arena, Burke said.
“Everything that has been done in the coalition has been volunteer,” Burke said.
“We certainly are going to work with him because he knows more than just the Flames,” he continued. “He knows other sports. He knows the arena well. He knows what other arenas are doing. He’ll be someone we go to for advice, if nothing else.”
The 13-member coalition board is in the process of establishing committees such as finance, events, fundraising and facilities, Burke said.
Each committee will be chaired by a board member but may include volunteers who are not coalition members.
“A lot of these details are going to be worked out in the next 30 to 60 days because we’ve been so much concentrating our energy on getting the contract taken care of,” he said.
Decisions such as what type of events to try to bring in and whether to recruit a second sports franchise have not yet been made.
Diamond said coalition representatives will meet monthly with the city Common Council Civic Center Committee to discuss matters.
Coalition representatives will also meet periodically with Warren County officials, Burke said.
Warren County Board of Supervisors agreed to provide up to $250,000 a year in occupancy tax funding for the arena.
Diamond said turning primary responsibility for the Civic Center over to the coalition will free up a lot of time in his schedule, which he expects to fill up with other matters in 2015.
“I believe there is still enough work out there that will still require me to work almost seven days a week, even though the Civic Center is not on the forefront,” he said.
Follow staff writer Maury Thompson at the All Politics is Local blog on poststar.com, at PS_Politics on Twitter and at Maury Thompson Post-Star on Facebook.