GLENS FALLS It’s back to the drawing board for Glens Falls officials trying to deal with big financial losses at the Civic Center, after nobody bid Monday to buy the city-owned downtown arena.
City leaders had hoped a private buyer would come forward to take over and run the facility, one of the downtown’s anchor attractions. One possibility is for the city to accept less than the current $1.5 million asking price.
A business coalition that includes the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce has raised $600,000, and members hope a deal can be worked out to keep the Civic Center under local control.
“With the lack of bids today this opens up the opportunity for the coalition of business leaders we have tried to convene,” said chamber President Peter Aust.
The group, called The Coalition to Save Our Civic Center, has raised its funds in about the last two weeks, and plans to continue fundraising, Aust said.
When auction plans were announced in June, Mayor Jack Diamond said the cash-strapped city “has no choice” but to try to sell to Civic Center, given the facility’s annual operating losses. The planned auction was widely publicized, but nobody registered to bid prior to the 11 a.m. sale, and no bids were received.
The conditions set by the city included a minimum asking price of $1.5 million, and a requirement that the buyer honor existing hosting agreements with the Adirondack Flames of the American Hockey League — the third AHL franchise to calls Glens Falls home — as well as the city’s management agreement with Global Spectrum.
The Civic Center has operated at a loss since it opened in 1979, but has been a regional attraction, drawing thousands of people into downtown Glens Falls for AHL hockey games, high school basketball tournaments, and for concerts ranging from Willie Nelson to Phish. The facility seats about 5,000.
Earlier this year, talks with the Warren County Board of Supervisors about the idea of raising the county’s occupancy tax and dedicating the proceeds to underwriting the civic center went nowhere.
The Civic Center would need an on-going subsidy of at least $400,000 per year, city officials have estimated, contending that a city of fewer than 15,000 can no longer afford the losses.
Aust said the Coalition to Save Our Civic Center believes that with small changes, a public-private partnership to run the center could break even.