Sunday, October 17, 2021

Build on the Buzz!

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor & Publisher

I’m about the energy, and the energy was sky-high in downtown Glens Falls prior to the final home hockey game of the Adirondack Phantoms.

I was leaving work at about 6:30. I came out the door and was struck not just that a throng was heading into the Civic Center (it was sold out), but also that the crowd was in a great mood. No despair or disappointment at Glens Falls’s losing its American Hockey League team.

By then, of course, word was all over town that Jack Diamond and Ed Bartholomew were about to pull a hockey rabbit out of their hat. They denied a deal was done, but so many people insisted they knew otherwise.

Monday they were proved right. The NHL Calgary Flames agreed to bring their top minor-league team here.

Beyond the considerable feat achieved by Jack and Ed in landing another AHL team against long odds, it’s the grass–roots energy that impresses me. Enthusiasm bubbled up from down below, like a mountain spring, and it feels like the heady days of the Adirondack Red Wings in the early 1980s. Hats off to the true believers.

It’s always welcome when something sparks hope and optimism, especially in this day and age. The energy prior to the season finale is what people crave and downtowns need. People like to be where there’s a positive vibe — where things are happening and getting better.

From Bolton Landing to Charleston, South Carolina, to downtown Saratoga Springs, to midtown Manhattan — you feel it when a place is abuzz. People on the streets, emerging possibilities, businesses on the surge.

This was a brutal winter in downtown Glens Falls and near and far. The energy bills made people poor, the unrelenting winter predisposed us indoors, it was a tough go all around.

All the more impressive that Glens Falls hockey fans persisted, actually seemed to grow stronger, more determined, united. Hardship maybe strengthened the bond.

Their persistence and faith was rewarded. The new hockey team will ride into town on a wave of exuberance.

That’s no small feat — but neither should we lose sight of the uphill realities the team faces to thrive.

We’re still a tiny market with an old building in an age of infinite options. People forget that in the heyday of the Adirondack Red Wings, we didn’t even have cable TV, let alone the Internet, smartphones, headsets, video consoles and all manner of technologies vying for attention.

Back then we also had more corporations rooted here and committed to community. So sad how that corporate presence has dwindled.

Then there’s today’s economy. Fewer high-paying jobs, more having to struggle to make ends meet.

Finally, as you knew I’d get around to eventually — there is the City of Glens Falls’s desperate financial situation. Taxes are perilously high. Might I even float the idea of adding a $1 surcharge on each hockey ticket, with the money going to help pay down some of the $600,000 cost that Glens Falls taxpayers shoulder pretty much alone in operating this resource that serves the region so well?

(I still want the Civic Center’s future put to a vote of Glens Falls taxpayers. They might well endorse it.)

Let’s hope that Calgary puts a genuinely shrewd and savvy person in charge of the Glens Falls operation. Success for most of us in northern New York is achieved by threading a needle — spotting tiny openings and somehow stringing successes through them. It takes inexhaustible effort, of course, and determination, creativity and even a degree of defiance. But smarts are a must.

Still I come back to the energy that night in downtown.

The mood got me thinking that maybe we are getting someplace. The city continues to pursue the Sonny Bonacio condominium-supermarket project, and not only has the state of New York accorded it millions of dollars (you know I’m no fan of that, but…) the hospital has agreed to sell it the land it needs — a hospital parking lot — for a million dollars (yet another scoop scored by our news editor Gordon Woodworth).

Success in northern New York has always been about overcoming long odds. Our winter’s too long, our population’s too sparse, we’re a little too far to be convenient to the metropolis.

But people choose to live here. And resourcefulness and enterprise are endemic to the species. The region didn’t wait for somebody to ride in and hire.

It built enterprises from scratch — papermills, medical device makers, TV listing providers, amusement park, cement and pigment plants, quarries, banks, insurers.

The buzz draws people in and spawns ideas. New technologies, new thinking, new possibilities emerge and are energized — rising potential to generate fresh prosperity.

AHL hockey survival declares: Success is scored here.

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