Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Opinion: Civic Center offers are not what City is seeking

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

Let’s not get too excited about the two bids the City received last Friday for the Glens Falls Civic Center. (An earlier bid made on Sept. 2 has been withdrawn.)

The first bid opened was from the Coalition to Save Our Civic Center, a well-meaning group of local businesspeople that has managed to corral $600,000 in commitments and wants to keep the building under local ownership.

But their offer is a lease-to-buy arrangement, according to Coalition member Peter Aust.

Addressing the Sept. 11 meeting of the Glens Falls Rotary Club, Mr. Aust, president and CEO of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the lease-to-buy would enable the Coalition to access state and federal grants.

But he made it clear that “the building would be owned by the City,” with the Coalition’s not-for-profit corporation “eventually buying it over time.”

I can tell you that is just not going to fly. Mayor Jack Diamond has said repeatedly that the City has to get out from under the financial strain of the Civic Center that is costing the city upwards of $800,000 this year in bond payments and operational losses.

Continuing to own it for some unspecified period of time is a deal-breaker for Glens Falls and the Common Council, which will ultimately make the decision.

The second bid, for an eye-popping $1.535-million, came from Kevin McCloskey’s Adirondack Sports & Entertainment, Inc. (Relevant question: Why didn’t Mr. McCloskey bid at the public auction — which drew no bidders with its $1.5-million minimum. Wouldn’t he have saved $35,000?)

At first glance, some thought this bid came from the same entity that Adirondack Flames president Brian Petrovek created in May, but they are two separate companies. Mr. Petrovek and Mr. McCloskey are not working together.

In fact Mr. McCloskey told The Chronicle Monday he’s never met Mr. Petrovek.

Mr. Petrovek’s company is Adirondack Sports & Entertainment, LLC, and was formed in New York State.

Mr. McCloskey’s company is Adirondack Sports & Entertainment, Inc., and he said it was formed in Florida.

Mr. McCloskey is a hockey guy. He says he wants to run a hockey academy for kids ages 15-19 in the Civic Center. He won’t discuss any financial details of his bid pending next Monday’s public meeting with the Common Council.

I am hearing that very little of the $1.535-million would be paid up-front, and that it entails a balloon payment at some point down the road.

The proposal is also a lease-to-buy, like the Coalition’s proposal. The City remains on the hook if things go bad.

Again, that’s not what the City is looking for. Mayor Diamond wants to wash his hands of the entire dirty mess, and let someone else endure the fiscal headaches.

The City wants cash on the barrelhead, up-front, and neither of these proposals offers much of that. Plus, there are questions about how either group will fund the arena’s day-to-day operations.

The Mayor says he’s limiting his public comments until the Common Council interviews the two parties, but my guess is he’s already thinking ahead to what the City’s next move might be. It could conduct another public auction. Or it could hold another sealed-bid auction, with specific criteria, for instance, like ruling out lease-to-buy proposals.

Or it could try to salvage one of these bids, grabbing the best deal they can get.

The problem is, the longer the process goes, the less leverage the City has.

Mayor Diamond said he wants a deal done by year-end. As we get closer to it, the City’s options shrink. It’s a buyers’ market. The price comes down.

Some say (or hope) there could be major players yet to be heard from.

Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Philadelphia Flyers, the Wells Fargo Center in Philly and four other rinks, has shown some preliminary interest, I’m told. They own and know how to run arenas. (Global Spectrum, which manages the Civic Center, is under the Comcast umbrella, as is Ovations, the Civic Center’s concessions provider.)

What about Saratoga Springs developer Sonny Bonacio. After he left the IDA/LDC meeting last Thursday at Crandall Library, he met with Omar Usmani and Brian Petrovek at Spot Coffee, and I know he’s met with other Coalition members, too. Given that he’s about to erect a $26-million, six-story building a stone’s throw from the Civic Center, could he be enticed to join the Coalition, or maybe partner with Mr. Petrovek?

We shall see.

But don’t be surprised if the City is back at square one after the Common Council interviews the two current bidders.

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