Clinton Arena renovations proposed at chamber meeting

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CLINTON — The Kraft Hockeyville Local Organizing Committee is looking for community feedback on a proposed $3.9 million renovations project at Clinton Arena.

Committee members gave a presentation detailing the project at the Clinton Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting held March 6 at the LutheranCare Campus. Members said additions and upgrades to the building would not only ensure additional visits from National Hockey League teams for pre-season games, as well as the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets, but also guarantee its longevity for future generations of young hockey players and skaters.

While Clinton Arena did receive about $150,000 from the NHL for upgrades as part of being chosen as the 2018 champion of Kraft Hockeyville USA, that funding only scratched the surface and is a “jump start” to what funding will be necessary for needed improvements. Committee members said the Buffalo Sabres have already expressed interest in returning to the arena for pre-season games. The Sabres faced the Columbus Bluejackets on Sept. 25 — the preseason game hosted by Clinton Arena as part of its Hockeyville prize package.

Committee Chairman Patty Louise began the presentation by recollecting how just one year ago, Hockeyville was “just a dream” and how busy and exciting the year had been since Clinton was named the 2018 Hockeyville champ last April.

“We got to watch NHL players on our ice — and we were even shown on national television,” Louise said.

As NHL officials made suggestions and requests for upgrades to the arena, like the new, taller regulation glass installed just weeks prior to the Buffalo-Bluejackets game, LOC members said they wanted to keep the “spirit and camaraderie” felt as a community during those four days of the Hockeyville celebration last fall.

The NHL “They’re telling us we were the best Hockeyville ever,” Louise said. “They’ve even asked us to help the community that gets chosen this year. Buffalo has said they’d like to come back and do some preseason games, the Comets want to come here, and of course, we have our youth tournaments that give us the opportunity to bring kids in from all over the country — if we want to continue to do that, we need to make changes.”

Renovations needed for the arena’s longevity go beyond the money that it was awarded by the NHL, Louise continued. And because the community was so involved in making Hockeyville a success, LOC members want local residents to have a say in what comes next for the arena.

“Hockeyville was a community effort. We spent hours at the town hall planning” for it, she said. “But it all came down to the people who came out to support it...As part of that plan, we want to keep that community spirit. So we want your feedback.”

Louise said, “If there’s something” about the renovations plan “you don’t like, then tell us. As we move forward,” the committee is asking, “What will this look like? And we’re asking you to be with us on making the arena last for decades and to bring the NHL back.”

Dr. Stephen L. Grimm, superintendent of Clinton Central School and member of the LOC, introduced some preliminary plans for the arena’s renovations project, that include an outside car port. The actual two-story addition to Clinton Arena would include additional restrooms, changing rooms for figure skaters and girls hockey players, a larger concessions area, coach/referee rooms, locker rooms, a weight room, multi-purpose room, indoor running track, updates to existing lighting, radiant heat in the stands and re-roofing options.

Pete Nelson, representing Nelson Associates Architectural Engineering, broke down some of the costs for the work needed. For the outdoor car port alone, which was seen as a safety necessity for parents and guardians dropping off and picking up children, preparation work would be needed, like relocating existing water and gas lines, tying on a new sanitary line and re-working the existing storm line for a total of about $25,000.

“The car port is a safety aspect of the project — for kids to be dropped off — and lines need to be relocated in order to do this,” Nelson said.

Further breakdowns of the project include:

• Interior renovations: $346,000
• Replace existing light fixtures with LED lights: $70,000
• Additions for a colored lighting system: $57,000
• Radiant heaters: $220,000
• Remove concrete curbing: $100,000
• Coat existing roof tresses with fire retardant: $100,000
• Stair tower and staircase: $221,445
• Elevated running track: $599,000
• Building addition: $750,000
• Announcers’ booth: $16,800
• Sconce lighting: $18,000

The total estimated budget for the entire proposed project would be $3,930,768, which would also include an insulated roof that would allow for year-round ice.

Nelson said the project would include locker rooms for women’s hockey and improved lighting would be used for hockey games, as well as figure skating shows. As for the curbing removal around the perimeter, he said it was an issue identified by the NHL and once addressed, it would no longer be of concern for NHL teams to return to the arena.

LOC members said Town Parks and Recreation Superintendent Michael Orsino was instrumental in providing feedback about the needed improvements to the arena, and he said additional locker rooms were definitely a priority.

“The locker rooms are the biggest issue I think — that and the roof, of course,” Orsino said. “We are adequate with what we’ve got, but there’s always room for improvement. Ideally, what you want is when the game is over, you want the home team to go one way and the visiting team to go the other way. Right now we’ve got four locker rooms and a ladies room that doubles as a locker room.” 

Orsino said not everyone is comfortable changing in the ladies’ room — parents more than the players — while the players will go along with anything to play.

“With an addition you could put the men’s and ladies’ rooms on the ground floor outside,” he said. “Utilize and turn the existing locker rooms into better rooms overall. We don’t have a referees room, we don’t have a designated women’s locker room, and I think that could all be addressed with an addition on the side.”

Right now committee members are looking at how the project could be broken up into phases, Grimm said. As for raising the needed funds for the project, “Clearly, we have work to do,” said LOC member John Lauchert. He said the committee has approached the

Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, which provided a $15,000 grant that helped with the study to determine what upgrades were needed at Clinton Arena.

“The Community Foundation may be able to be approached again” for additional grant funding” once we get our fund-raising going, and we’re looking at 2020 being a fund-raising year,” Lauchert said. Grants and other funding resources may also be available from the state, he added.

Louise said the LOC is working with Jennifer Waters, vice-president of business development and communications with Mohawk Valley EDGE, to coordinate fund-raising efforts.

“If you have thoughts and questions, we would love to hear them,” Louise said.
Asked if the proposed new weight room, running track and other facilities at the arena would be open to students and community members, Grimm said the committee is “looking at the business model of that” as for opportunities to utilize the arena more to help raise additional, consistent revenues.

“We want to make it more community friendly and open to other opportunities,” Louise said.

The organizing committee will soon make presentations on the proposed project at village and town board meetings, and will soon provide an email address where local residents can send their thoughts, suggestions and feedback.

“We want your feedback before we move forward in what we’re going to do,” Louise said.

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