York City officials' 2001 guarantee of a nonprofit organization's $7.3 million ice rink dream with taxpayer money was, by anyone's standards, a disaster.
The York City Recreation Corp.'s rosy revenue projections weren't even near the mark, and it defaulted on its bond within two years.
York was hardly financially fit before; assuming the recreation corporation's debt made the situation much, much worse.
In 2000, the Memorial Park ice rinks were generating a modest $50,000 net profit annually; today the reclaimed York City Ice Arena costs taxpayers $450,000 a year.
The fiasco cost the recreation corporation another dream — a baseball stadium in downtown York. An early proponent, the organization found itself shut out by other stakeholders wary of being associated with the failed ice rink venture.
Now, more than a dozen years later, Santander Stadium is considered a jewel of the city, and the group that owns the York Revolution baseball team is offering to work its magic on the ice arena.
York City officials are considering a four-year contract with the York Professional Baseball Club — which owns and operates the team — to manage the York City Ice Arena.
The city would pay the baseball club about $4,100 per month — less than the rate it pays the company that has managed the arena for about 10 years.
Revolution president and general manager Eric Menzer plans to tap the community connections that have been key to the team's success to generate more revenue from the arena.
Increasing advertising, naming rights and sponsorships could ultimately shrink the city's annual debt-service burden.
This sounds awfully familiar, right down to one of the key players.
As the city's director of economic development, Menzer was a big booster of the ice arena deal.
"From a city administration standpoint, we are strongly in favor of it, and we are going to strongly recommend it to city council," he said in January 2001.
Menzer was by no means alone in his support — in fact, skeptics were hard to find at the time.
If only we knew then what we know now ...
One of the things we know now is that Menzer can run a successful sports venue. If anyone is capable of turning the ice arena around, he is.
But we also know it's not an easy assignment — and any deal should ensure taxpayers aren't left holding the bag again.