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Under new deal, Maryland company will pay York City to manage ice arena

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York Ice Arena in York City, Friday, June 26, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The York City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a contract with Maryland-Based Black Bear Sports Group to manage the city's financially troubled ice arena.

With council's vote, which came through a consent agenda that did not include any discussion, the company will take over management of the arena on Aug. 1 for a time period of at least 10 years.

"We can bring things to the table that other people just don’t have," said Black Bear CEO Murry Gunty. "We can save money on insurance, we can save money on purchasing utilities, we can share maintenance people — we have purchasing power people don’t have.”

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The company will continue to offer public skating sessions, Gunty said, saying that "public skating session are the livelihood of any rink."

Saving money was at the forefront of discussions as city officials considered bids to run the facility that lost $114,000 in the first three quarters of 2019 alone.

It is unclear, however, how the arena ended 2019, nor is it clear how it has performed in the first half of 2020.

Philip Given, acting director of community and economic development, did not respond to phone inquiries after telling The York Dispatch Wednesday morning he would contact York City business administrator Tom Ray about the finances.

Unlike the current manager, the York Revolution, Black Bear would pay the city monthly to manage the facility and cover all utility costs and capital improvement costs, according to the contract. Now, the city pays the local baseball team to manage the rink.

City solicitor Jason Sabol has said the new contract will save the city "a ton" of money.

"It sounds like a sweet deal," said council member Lou Rivera.

Coach Matt Doyle's Strength and Skills Clinic sponsored ice hockey camp at York Ice Arena in York City, Friday, June 26, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

For the first year, the company, which specializes in bringing struggling rinks back to life, would pay the city $60,000. It would then pay $70,000 for the second year and $75,000 for the third year.

For each year thereafter, Black Bear would increase its annual payments to the city by 3%. 

The 3% annual increase would continue if Black Bear and the city decided to renew the 10-year contract, which can be extended two times — meaning the company could potentially manage the facility for three decades.

"We’ve taken over many distressed rinks that have been losing far more money than what you’re describing," Gunty said when asked about the facility's struggling finances.

While the current contract with the York Revolution expires on July 31, the city is allowing the Revs' lease to run through August to work directly alongside Black Bear to ensure a smooth transition.

York City Council President Henry Nixon could not be reached for comment following the meeting. 

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.