What separates downtown Glens Falls from hundreds of other upstate communities is a downtown arena.
Its Saturday night hockey, the state basketball tournament, high school and college graduations and the occasional concert. That benefits the entire region.
It enhances the quality of life for the entire region, with the emphasis on “entire region.” We suspect there is not one person in the immediate region who has not attended some event at the arena at one time or another.
We have been supporters and fans of the folks at the Adirondack Civic Center Coalition, who have not only made saving the arena a community project, but in many cases, a second job.
Over the past five years, the coaltion has taken over operation of the Civic Center from the city of Glens Falls, purchased the ECHL hockey franchise and come close to breaking even financially — with a $250,000 annual subsidy from Warren County’s bed tax to help out.
Anyone who managed to get a ticket to Glens Falls High School’s state basketball championship in the Federation basketball tournament a couple months ago would be hard-pressed to debate the arena’s value.
But last week, the arena coalition made a plea with Warren County, the town of Queensbury and the city of Glens Falls for another $200,000 in funding for vital infrastructure. To its credit, the coalition has spent $57,000 of its own money on infrastructure needs. What especially startled us was the list of needs the coalition identified for the near future.
It identified $435,000 in “immediate needs” and another $372,000 over the next two years. It appeared to us that the $200,000 requested would hardly put a dent in the need.
The coalition also included a five-year, long-term capital project wish list for another $400,000, as well as $2 million for a complete renovation of Heritage Hall if it can get grant money from the state.
It left us wondering what the long-term needs of the Civic Center will be in terms of infrastructure. Will $100,000 a year — every year — be the norm, or will it be even more than that?
While we feel comfortable that Warren County and Queensbury could afford the extra funding, we’re not so sure Glens Falls can.
Which brings us back to the benefits that the Civic Center provides to the entire region.
If every town in Warren, Washington and northern Saratoga counties agreed to contribute $5,000 annually to the coalition as part of its contribution to the region’s quality of life, that would be between $150,000 and $200,000 annually.
We regularly talk about the giving, loving nature of our local communities in helping each other. We see this as another opportunity to come together to guarantee one of the staples of the region. While we realize there are many hurdles to overcome — there always are when politicians are involved — we suggest a three-year trial run that would get the building the upgrades it needs. It could also stabilize its finances for the future.
We all should be reminded there is strength in numbers.
We also understand the pie-in-the-sky nature of our request, but we argue it should not be seen that way. Residents of Salem, Greenwich and Whitehall might argue that there are few that use the Civic Center, but we argue that is short-sighted.
This is an opportunity for our communities to come together like they do in funding SUNY Adirondack. It could be the beginning of a far larger dialogue about tourism promotion and helping each other out in a variety of ways, from protecting the environment to recycling to education.
We could be an example for the entire state with our commitment to regionalization, and it could start with a minimal investment.
We think it’s worth talking about, and we urge Warren and Washington County supervisors to at least discuss it at their next meeting. Remember, there is strength in numbers.