AUBURN — City Councilors rescinded their lease on a proposed Turner Street dual-surface ice arena Monday night after getting updated financial forecasts that showed more than $200,000 in losses each year through 2018.
"We have looked at this again and again and again, and this is the end of this chapter," Councilor Joshua Shea said. "Perhaps its the end of the movie, but the numbers don't work. I really really wish they did. I really do. But the sad fact is, since we are representing the taxpayers of Auburn, I have to say that they don't."
Councilors planned to schedule a discussion about the ice arena at a future workshop.
Monday's decision leaves the city owing money to developer George Schott. They approved the lease at Sept. 17, but with a caveat that allowed them to back out Monday after Deschene released his new forecast.
Councilors agreed to pay Schott up to $250,000 for work he did on the project between Sept. 17 and Monday.
"I know we owe him something," Deschene said. "He's done some work, but I'm not sure how much."
The initial pro forma financial forecast, released on Aug. 9, showed a potential $1.3 million profit/loss range: The facility could end up making a $350,000 profit in the best case scenario, or losing $938,000 under the worst case. Losses would be covered by the city of Auburn's general fund.
Deschene updated forecast showed a $277,000 loss in 2013 — $1.09 million in revenues and $1.36 million in expenses. Those losses continued through 2017 — $238,506 in 2014, $232,845 in 2015, $226,575 in 2016 and $219,628 in 2017.
The facility showed a $14,176 profit in 2018.
Deschene said those numbers represented more accurate forecasts in ice time and in marketing. He forecasts $32,000 in revenues from advertising sales in signs, while previous forecasts called for more than $100,000. He also budgeted $50,000 in naming rights revenues.
"We could get more, but that number is consistent with other facilities in this area," Deschene said. "I feel comfortable with it."
Deschene said his forecast is financially conservative and did not include revenues from fundraising efforts and sources that are hard to forecast.
"Could we fund raise a $200,000 loss?" Deschene said. "I don't know that we could; that's why it's not in there."
Another issue was a $1.2 million fund the city would need to maintain to cover two years' worth of lease, money that would be set aside in case future councilors decided to end the lease.
It added up to a potential tax increase, according to councilors.
"I am unwilling to put in a tax increase to fund this," Councilor Tizz Crowley said.
The lease still had two supporters. Councilor Mary Lafontaine, who voted to keep the lease, said she had serious misgivings
"If we didn't have other large projects coming our way, we might have money to absorb that," she said. "This is really difficult, and I want this to happen for the city."
Councilor Leroy Walker, however, maintained strong support for the project and said he is convinced it would improve the city.
"The Ingersoll Arena has made money every year it's been open," Walker said. "Taxpayers who said it would fail back when it was built were wrong, and you taxpayers today are wrong. This new rink will make money. You people are going down the wrong lane."