Low rink revenues leave Auburn arena in the red

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AUBURN — A year after its first rink opened, revenues at the Norway Savings Bank Arena are well below forecasts.

Howard Kroll, Auburn’s interim city manager, said he and new ice rink manager Tim Holden are scheduled to discuss the arena’s financials with city councilors at a Dec. 15 meeting.

“I think it’s going to be a reality check,” Kroll said. “We went into this with a lot of unknowns, but we have the right guy in charge now.”

The arena is off Turner Street near the Auburn Mall and overlooks the Shaw’s Supermarket and Center Street. The facility includes a 380-space parking lot.

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It was built to the city’s specifications by developer George Schott, who is renting it to the city. It’s part of a city enterprise fund and is meant to be self-supporting, paying for its operations with its own advertising and ice rental revenues.

The first rink and the arena’s locker rooms opened in November 2013. The second surface and the second-floor mezzanine — with warm areas for spectators, offices and concessions — opened in February.

According to city financial reports, the arena’s 2014-15 fiscal year spending forecasts were mostly on track through October.

The city’s fiscal year runs from July through June, so the October financial report represents the first third of the year.

Salaries, services, utilities and rents were all about one-third of the budget. Only the supplies line item, budgeted at $9,000 for the year, went well beyond. According to October’s financial reports, the arena spent $21,372 on supplies.

Overall, the arena spent $421,866 through October — about 34.9 percent of its $1.2 million enterprise fund budget.

Revenues were a different story. Only earnings from sign advertisements were in the black, with the arena earning $98,955 through October — 42.4 percent of the $233,225 revenue forecast for sign advertising.

All other revenues, including those for tournaments, concessions, programs and ice rental income, were well below forecasts.

Through October, the dual surface ice arena brought in $217,912 — about 17.8 percent of the $1.22 million budget forecast for the fiscal year.

City Councilor Leroy Walker said he thinks the turnover in arena management is behind the budget shortfall. Arena manager Josh Macdonald resigned in March, and he was replaced by Tim Holden, a former rink manager from Saco, in May.

“(Macdonald) had a plan for what was going to happen in the summer, and then he left,” Walker said. “His plan never happened, and the arena sat empty for most of the summer. And that’s what really killed us, I think.”

Kroll said councilors and the public would find out at the Dec. 15 meeting.

“We’ll be going over the management of the arena, the financials and the previous budget that was created by the previous manager,” Kroll said. “After reviewing a year’s worth of financial information, we can have a better idea of what it’s going to take to run and sustain itself. We really went into things blind, assuming a lot.”

Kroll said the solution could involve summer programming.

“(Holden) will be able to tell us what we have filled, what we have available and what we need to do to fill those time slots,” he said. “We need to generate revenue during the off-season, too.”

staylor@sunjournal.com


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