LEWISTON – The city plans to sell its money-losing Androscoggin Bank Colisee for $1 million to a Veazie-based company under a plan going before the City Council on Tuesday night.

If approved, the city will give control of the Colisee’s operations to Jim Cain, owner of Firland Management, who will manage the facility for a year before deciding next April whether to purchase the property, City Administrator Jim Bennett said.

The city paid $250,000 for the Colisee in 2004 and took on the property’s $4.7 million debt. Since then, the facility has cost the city around $500,000 per year to operate, Mayor Larry Gilbert said.

The memorandum sent from the city’s office states that the 2008 fiscal year was the Colisee’s best ever with an excess of $400,000 in losses. The Colisee’s roughly $5 million debt – mainly from renovations – will be absorbed by the city.

The physical property will cost Cain $1 million, to be paid back over 15 years beginning in 2013. Cain will also have the option of borrowing another $200,000 from the city during the first year of ownership for operations.

An option to build a second ice rink on adjacent property within four years of Cain’s purchase is included. That’s a $3 million project with funding potentially loaned by the city.

A second rink, Mayor Larry Gilbert said, could mean year-round ice for local skaters. Neither Bennett nor Gilbert believe that year-round ice is financially sustainable with only one rink.

The transfer will not affect events already scheduled – among them musical concerts and the Franco Fun Festival – and Cain has agreed to honor the rest of the Maineiacs’ 15-year contract.

The city has stipulated in its agreement that the property be run primarily as an ice facility for 15 years. Cain has already said Firland will be more focused on ice-related events such as hockey tournaments, though there will likely still be space for concerts, graduations and other events, Bennett said.

Firland Management runs ice facilities in several states, though this will be the first one it will own.

Bennett is anticipating the council’s approval of the move.

“The council has been aware of the financial arrangements,” he said. “The issue the council has been working on … for some time is their comfort with the language” of the agreement.

Though Cain will also be purchasing the naming rights to the Colisee, Bennett does not believe the name will be changed due to a contract between the corporation that operates the Colisee and Androscoggin Bank.

Gilbert, chairman of the LUCCE board, has been pushing for a sale of the Colisee since his election. “I advocated trying to sell the Colisee,” he said, because “it’s losing half-a-million dollars a year.” He hoped the move would “enhance hockey at all levels of the community,” and believes the facility would be moving into the right hands.

“They have a record of success,” he said of Firland Management.

Some people have questioned whether $1 million is a fair sale price. “It’s realistic,” said Gilbert. “To expect we’d get back everything we put into it would be unrealistic. And this was the best deal we received.”

Gilbert said the city would begin collecting rain tax on the facility, but was unable to estimate the annual amount to be generated.

Matt McKnight, Maineiacs president, was hopeful about the transfer of operations to Firland. The business model converting the arena back to a hockey-first facility will be beneficial to the sport in the area, he said. After an initial meeting between the Maineaics and Firland to discuss capabilities, McKnight said, “we had no reason for concern.”

Firland hasn’t announced any changes planned for the property, though any changes are unlikely to be made before next April when Cain can formally purchase the facility.

To read the memorandum published by the city or to see the LUCCE purchase agreement, visit the city Web site: www.ci.lewiston.me.us.

Colisee deal at a glance

Proposed sale price: $1 million

Time frame: Payments start in 2013: at $50,000 a year

At 2023, payments increase to $100,000 a year for five more years

Loan options: $200,000 can be borrowed from the city in the first year for operations

$3 million, within 4 years, for second rink

Name: Still Androscoggin Bank Colisee

Events: No change to event calendar

Changes: More ice-related events, potential for additional rink

Management: Lewiston Urban Civic Center Enterprise, Inc. until April 2009 then Firland Management

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