Glens Falls Mayor Jack Diamond answers questions from news reporters moments after a public auction of the Glens Falls Civic Center began at 11 a.m. Aug. 18 — and not a single bid was submitted.
Nearly 200 people gathered Monday Aug. 18 for a public auction of the Glens Falls Civic Center — and many had high expectations — but not one individual or organization submitted a bid to purchase it. The minimum bid for the 70,000-square -feet arena which seats 5,000 was $1.5 million, a fraction of its present construction cost.
Standing in the civic center lobby and surrounded by news reporters, Glens Falls Mayor Jack Diamond said he was disappointed — but he will be meeting with other city council members soon to evaluate options in their ongoing effort to transfer ownership. The city council has sought to sell the 35-year-old venue in order to stop shouldering annual deficits recently averaging $600,000 to $700,000.
The council will undoubtedly be reconsidering area developer Rich Schemerhorn’s $750,000 offer, submitted months ago before the auction was announced, Diamond said. Diamond and other city officials met with several of the 12 parties that expressed interest in acquiring the civic center, he said.
“We’re going to look at all our options,” he said. “My goal is to get the building sold.”
Diamond said he was pleased with the emergence of support for the civic center, from both the private and public sectors. In recent weeks a citizens’ group named the Coalition to Save Our Civic Center formed. Spearheaded by French Mountain Commons mall owner Ed Morse and Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce president Peter Aust, the group cited its mission as assuring the future of the venue.
The arena, first of its kind in the area, has in the past 35 years hosted a half-dozen hockey teams, nationally-known rock bands, country music performers, countless basketball tournaments and trade shows.
Area public officials also came forward recently, stating they’d entertain proposals of regional funding. Although months ago Warren County supervisors rebuffed Diamond’s pleas for money to pay toward operational expenses, the supervisors showed interest last week in an idea raised by Queensbury resident John Salvadore to establish a public authority to own and operate the venue.
Diamond said he appreciated the new expressions of interest.
“The community now is finally realizing the civic center is a regional asset, he said. “Apparently people do care about what happens to the facility.”
Diamond added that the city is now beginning to prepare a budget for 2015, and appropriations for the civic center are not included in the spending plan.
City officials said that people and organizations interested in acquiring the civic center are welcome to submit offers — with no minimum bid required — to the city Comptroller by 11 a.m. Sept. 12. Included in the sale is the center’s 3.5-acre site plus a parking lot nearby at the intersection of Oakland Avenue and Fredella Avenue. All bids must honor an existing three-year lease contract with the Adirondack Flames to conduct hockey games in the arena.
Aust said the Coalition had raised $600,000 as of Monday morning, and they’d likely be soon submitting a purchase offer.
“We’ll be developing a strategy of how we can be a part of the new ownership,” Aust said. “Our hope is that Warren County will look at the civic center as a regional asset and partner with our group so the center will continue, over the long term, to provide entertainment and sports events.”
Although many community leaders have voiced concerns that the civic center would be razed or put to a use that doesn’t support commerce as the center traditionally has, Diamond said he was welcoming to all offers, regardless of the fate of the venue.
“The eventual use of the civic center is up to the new owners,” he said. “If someone comes up with a different vision for the building, we couldn’t ignore that offer.”
Warren County Supervisor-at-large Doug Beaty of Queensbury said he believed that since Saratoga and Washington County benefit from the center, they should help pay for the facility alongside Warren County — either through a public appropriation or by a ticket surcharge.
“The Glens Falls Civic Center is a great asset for the entire region,” he said.
Beaty added that he heard that one person was prepared to bid Monday, but that this individual had backed out when he saw that no one else was submitting bids.
Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino said that his recent proposal to change the Warren County sales tax revenue distribution would help direct more about $400,000 money to Glens Falls, which could offset most of the civic center’s losses. Merlino has called for basing sales tax revenue allocation more on municipalities’ population rather than property wealth.
Local hockey fan T.J. Wade said he was disappointed in the auction’s outcome, because he expected that an entrepreneur possessing the business sense necessary to make the civic center profitable would submit an offer to buy the venue.
“Purchasing the civic center was never put up for a public referendum,” he said. “Local taxpayers are tired of paying for its debt.”