EDITORIAL: No one gets to skate

York Dispatch
Coach Mike Cleveland, of New Cumberland, guides the York Devils under-18 ice hockey through a team practice at the York City Ice Arena in this 2007 file photo. Cleveland was also the general manager of the arena, but was fired in August 2017. (Dispatch file photo)

The York Revolution should stick to the diamond, because its performance on the rink stinks.

In 2014, the local professional baseball team won a contract to manage the York City Ice Arena, a boondoggle city taxpayers were covering to the tune of $450,000 a year at the time.

It should be noted that the unnecessary burden — as much as $600,000 annually in recent years — was being shouldered thanks in part to Eric Menzer, now the Revs president and general manager.

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As York City’s director of economic development 13 years earlier, he had urged city council to guarantee the nonprofit York City Recreation Corp.’s $7.3 million ice rink dream with taxpayer money.

"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.

York Revolution President Eric Menzer announces their partnership with Peoples Bank as the naming sponsor for the next seven years, Thursday Dec. 17, 2015.  (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

That was by no means a consensus.

Michael O'Rourke, the city's business administrator at the time, was against the idea from the start and recalled that there were "problems from day one."

"(The corporation was) going to sell ads, have a restaurant, a liquor license, sell naming rights," O'Rourke said. "They did nothing ... and suddenly the city owed an unanticipated $600,000 from our general fund."

Back in 2000, the then-Memorial Park ice rinks were generating a modest $50,000 net profit annually; by 2014, when the Revs took over management, it was costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands a year.

Menzer recently acknowledged the mistake, saying, "There's no getting around the fact that the original business proposition ... didn't work."

The corporation, which had promised to pay off the bond with profits from the facility, lost more than $525,000 on the arena in two years and defaulted, forcing the city to assume the debt.

Shortly after taking control of the arena, the city hired Rink Management Services to manage the facility.

The company, which maintains ice and related equipment at 28 ice rinks, produced more than $1.25 million in operating profits from 2004-13, according to its proposal to keep its city contract in 2014.

City officials opted instead to go with the local baseball team, helmed then and now by Menzer.

The Revs did produce nearly $90,000 in profit during the first few months of its four-year contract. Unfortunately, the team has since lost about $130,000 for the city from 2015 through September 2017.

Plus, there’s the criminal investigation …

Officials acknowledged in November that police were investigating possible employee misconduct at the facility but have been silent regarding the subject of the investigation.

A recently completed independent audit of York City’s finances found a lack of “appropriate controls and oversight” at the arena.

A separate review by The York Dispatch of hundreds of arena-related documents, obtained through multiple Right-to-Know Law requests, also showed bookkeeping anomalies.

We can only hope this investigation is thorough and the results are made public as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, the Revs’ four-year arena contract is up for renewal this year.

The York City Council should do its job, take a close look at the contract and reconsider if having this baseball team run its ice rink is really the best idea.