Professional hockey will return to Elmira, NY’s First Arena this fall, as an agreement has been reached for a Federal Hockey League team.
The Chemung County Industrial Development Agency, which owns First Arena, had been in discussions with Robbie Nichols about an agreement that would bring a team to the venue. Under the terms that were being discussed, Nichols–co-owner of baseball’s Elmira Pioneers (summer collegiate; Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League) and a former First Arena general manager–would lease the facility while adding a Federal Hockey League team that would begin play in the 2018-19 season.
That deal is now official, as Nichols and the IDA announced on Tuesday that they have reached a five-year agreement. The IDA has been seeking a private investor to purchase First Arena, and Nichols’ lease will grant him the option buy the facility in the future. More from The Leader:
“A lot of people have asked me to bring it back,” Nichols said. “Now we’re bringing it back. Now it’s us going to them asking to buy a season ticket or at least buy a ticket to see if you enjoy it.”
Nichols and Southern Tier Economic Growth President Mike Krusen came to an agreement for Nichols to lease First Arena, which is owned by the IDA, with the option for Nichols to buy it outright down the road.
The Industrial Development Agency has committed to $200,000 of capital improvements to the arena for repairs and upgrades for problems with ice plants, roof leaks, boiler leaks, scoreboard problems, zamboni problems and repairing broken glass, to name a few. The IDA will also provide Nichols with the first $100,000 of utility expenses. Nichols will pay a nominal rent of $125 a month.
“All other expenses and all other revenue generated will be Robbie’s,” said Krusen. “He’s the holder of the keys. That will be his obligation to meet those expenses by revenues such as sponsorship, ticket sales and concessions. That’s why it’s important to get the community around Robbie.”
The new Federal Hockey League team will mark First Arena’s first professional hockey tenant since the departure of the Elmira Jackals (ECHL), who folded operations following the 2016-17 season. Additional details on the club, including its logo, are scheduled to be announced on July 25.