AUBURN — City officials discussed a plan Monday to buy Norway Savings Bank Arena, which most agreed would save the city money in the long-term by eliminating a 30-year lease agreement.

According to Assistant City Manager Phil Crowell, the remaining payments on the lease with developer and owner George Schott equal roughly $12.7 million.

Instead, the city is eyeing a $7 million bond, which over 20 years would total $10.45 million.

“The purchase would result in a savings of approximately $2.5 million over the life of the bond and a five-year reduction in the term,” Crowell said in an email.

The dual surface ice arena opened in 2013, and is home to a U.S. Premiere Hockey League team along with a number of other local school teams and organizations.

A city statement describing the plan Monday calls the arena “an extraordinary asset for the city of Auburn, and one of the key anchors of the city’s sports tourism and recreation efforts.”


“It makes good sense for the city,” City Manager Peter Crichton said in the statement. “We find ourselves in a positive situation and we hope to capitalize on it.”

When the decision to build the arena was made in 2012, the Sun Journal reported that Schott would borrow the $8.5 million to build the facility using private financing, and lease it back to the city each year for 30 years. During that time, the agreement stated, the city would have the option of buying the property outright.

Schott built the ice arena to the city’s specifications on land he owned behind Shaw’s. It was planned to be a money-making enterprise, but expenses have often outpaced revenue projections.

In fiscal 2017-18, it ran at a loss of $394,000. This year it is expected to essentially break even.

During a council workshop Monday, Economic Development Director Michael Chammings said the city has been looking at this option for several years. He said the purchase for $7 million represents a savings of $593,000, a discount by Schott. He said the arena is assessed by the city at $5.96 million.

Finance Director Jill Eastman said if the City Council approves the purchase, the bond will be combined with the annual Capital Improvement Plan bonding for next year. She said that means the city will receive the bond in the fall, at which time it would pay Schott.


Mayor Jason Levesque likened the decision to refinancing a home.

“We’re refinancing our house with a better return, plus we’re getting a discount,” he said.

Councilor Andy Titus, who was on the council when the arena was approved, said he was skeptical of the project from the beginning. He said the lease agreement includes a buyout option if the city wanted to opt out of the agreement, but said, “I don’t think this council, or a future council, is going to do that.”

“It costs us money,” he said of the arena. “But it’s a value to this community. In light of that, this is the best thing we can do. It at least helps.”

Councilor Alfreda Fournier said she was told by at least one constituent “not to vote for this,” but she added, “It looks to me that this is a good deal.”

Eastman said the city’s current lease payment is roughly $507,000 annually, and that the annual bond payment would be “a little less than that.”

Councilor Belinda Gerry, who was also on the council when it was approved, said she voted against the arena “because (information) kept changing.” At the time, she argued the public should vote on it.

“I still feel like the public should decide on this,” she said Monday.

The City Council is expected to vote on whether to purchase and bond at its July 1 meeting.

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