A pending agreement with a national youth hockey organization could bring York City upwards of $100,000 a year, city officials estimate.
York City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to approve a plan to rent out daytime space and ice time from the York City Ice Arena to the Maryland-based Skipjacks hockey club, according to Mike Cleveland, the general manager and hockey director for the arena.
Under the terms of the seven-year lease, the organization will pay $20,000 the first year and then that fee plus an additional 3 percent each year thereafter for use of the facilities. On top of that, the group will pay for ice time, which could be as much as $100,000 a year, said Jim Gross, the city's public works director.
But the city won't see most of that money for a couple of years, said Eric Menzer, president of the York Revolution, which the city contracts to manage the arena at 941 Vander Ave.
That's because the rink will need to undergo $200,000 worth of renovations to get the facilities ready for the club, Menzer said. This won't be paid for with city money, he said — the Skipjacks organization will make "a pretty significant upfront investment" to cover the full cost of the work, which will involve turning several hundred square feet of what's now the lobby into the arena's 13th locker room, which will be specifically for the hockey school.
Because the club is paying the entire $200,000 or so, the city plans to give it that much credit in ice time, so its players will skate for free for two to three years, Menzer said.
This doesn't apply to the annual fee — the organization will still pay the $20,000, he said.
"Over the life of the lease, the city will get at least $300,000 in new revenue," Menzer said. The lease has two five-year options; if both sides choose to exercise them, the yearly rate would continue to go up by 3 percent annually, and the hockey school would continue to pay the arena's going rate for ice time.
The Skipjacks will have an under-18 and up to two under-16 teams, Cleveland said. He said the kids come from all over the country and live with local host families while they're playing hockey. They earn their high school diplomas from cyber schools.
Cleveland was pleased with the plan to rent to the hockey school because it's hard to get anyone to rent ice time during the day, he said. The ice usually sits empty during school and work hours, he said, so the possibility that the rink could lock in an organization for those 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours would be a boon to the arena and the city.
"For me, it's a home run," he said. "This is ice time you can't really rent."
The Skipjacks' season runs from September until March, according to Jason Kersner, one of the organization's coaches and owners. They're part of the U.S. Premier Hockey League, so after a couple weeks' training in August, they'll play the likes of the Jersey Hitmen and the Connecticut Junior Whalers.
He said the school will start with two teams but eventually add two more, going from about 40 to 45 kids to twice that. They all do on-ice training in the morning and then school work in the afternoon.
Kersner said the organization has previously used this arena as an alternate home-ice facility.
"We have a great relationship with York," he said.
In 2001, the city took on $7.3 million in debt to build the rink. Menzer at that point was the city's economic development director; he advocated strongly for building the rink.
The city defaulted on a payment on that debt two years later, in November 2003. It has made regular payments since. The city has budgeted a payment of $621,402.50 in 2016, and around the same for each of the following five years. The current plan is for the city to pay off the bond by 2021, according to this year's budget document.
The York Revolution is now contracted by the city to operate the arena. The city and that organization came to a four-year agreement to that effect in 2014. As management of the arena, the Revolution negotiated the Skipjjacks lease on behalf of the city, Menzer said, but the money will go directly to the city.