It took years for the Civic Center to sink into a deep hole of debt and deficit spending, and it will take years for it to get winched out.
But for the first time in more than a decade, we believe the arena is on its way toward fiscal stability.
The source of the improvement is the dedicated group of community leaders known as the Adirondack Civic Center Coalition. These people all have other, time-consuming jobs in business, finance, law and other fields, but have been devoting themselves for the past year or more to making sure the Civic Center remains a busy sports and entertainment hub in downtown Glens Falls.
They have begun to address the arena’s infrastructure needs, kept a professional hockey team on site, taken over operation of the arena and concessions, hired a professional arena manager, increased the number of non-hockey shows on the calendar and dealt with a crisis last March, when part of the brick facing near the top of the arena’s back wall got pushed loose by heavy snow.
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It’s a big, complex job, but the coalition is approaching it with patience and the philosophy, which we agree with, that the way to save hundreds of thousands of dollars is one dollar at a time.
Every contract has been renegotiated, according to the coalition’s president, Dan Burke — and if they save just a few bucks, he said, that is a victory.
The coalition has suffered from decreased attendance at hockey games, but its members are hopeful that the Thunder, who have been playing well, will win over local fans in time. The team’s management, which is separate from the coalition, set ticket prices too high to begin with, alienating some longtime fans.
But because the coalition is running the concession operation itself now, even though sales volume is down, more profit is made on each sale.
With concerts and other shows, the coalition is booking the acts itself, and it has been filling more dates than the arena’s managers of the recent past. The coalition is wary of risking too much, so it hasn’t booked any blockbuster acts, but agents have been calling, trying to get into the arena.
As much as we would love to see the arena sell out for concerts, we applaud the coalition’s conservative approach. Over time, we believe the Civic Center could become known as a good mid-sized venue for popular acts that aren’t big enough to fill stadiums, of the sort that perform now at Proctor’s in Schenectady, The Egg in Albany and Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont.
We acknowledge how tricky it can be to balance the cost of quality programming against the necessity of turning a profit. The coalition is walking a tightrope, because it has no fund balance to fall back on in case a show doesn’t work out. One failure could set it back months.
One of the key elements to the coalition’s success so far has been support from Warren County, where the Board of Supervisors agreed to give the arena $750,000 in bed tax money, spread out over three years, for promotion of the center.
The county’s generosity has been a critical help in getting the coalition through the struggle to get the arena on its feet. But helping Glens Falls thrive helps the county as a whole thrive, and the arena draws hockey fans and other attendees from throughout the region.
The arena is still an old building that loses money. But, as with downtown Glens Falls, you can now say the near future at the Civic Center looks better than the recent past. The coalition deserves our thanks for that.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Terry Coomes, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representative George Nelson.