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Saturday, April 13, 2024

McCarthy supports plan to use ARPA funds for Mohawk Harbor Arena development


SCHENECTADY — Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy is throwing his ⁢support behind a proposal to allocate ​$2.5 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act ‌(ARPA) funding toward the construction of the proposed hockey arena at Mohawk Harbor.

During a presentation to the‍ City Council on Tuesday night, project developer Galesi Group CEO David Buicko and Schenectady County Metroplex Chair Ray⁣ Gillen requested that the council reallocate $2.5 million originally awarded ​to the Capital Region Aquatic Center ⁣to the arena project.

In August, the City Council voted to rescind the ⁤aquatic ‌center funding after the project moved⁢ from its proposed location at Mohawk Harbor to ⁣the ViaPort shopping​ mall in Rotterdam.

Boosting Local Economy

The proposed $50 million‌ Mohawk Harbor Arena would‌ house approximately 2,200 fans for Union College ‌men’s and women’s hockey games and up to 3,600 attendees for other events that would utilize ⁤the arena’s⁢ floor seating.

Gillen and Buicko ​told the council that while the arena would create approximately ‍15-20 long-term jobs and would not be a significant property tax generator for the city, the tourism and entertainment dollars created by ‌events at the venue would pump money into local ⁣restaurants, hotels, and ⁢the‍ casino.

Gillen noted that the one-time ARPA request is less than the $2.6 million ‍share the city received from slot machine revenue ‌from Rivers Casino last year,‌ with the casino ⁤set to ‍receive more traffic if the arena is built.

“The more activity there is at the harbor, the more⁣ revenue comes into the city,” Gillen told the council.⁤ “It’s as simple as that.⁣ You have to spend a little‍ money ​to make ‌a little money. But it’s certainly a proven case that more activity and more visitors⁣ and more spending brings ‍more revenue to​ the city.”

McCarthy ‍said on Wednesday that he is recommending to the council that it approve the ARPA funding for the project.

“It complements the activity that’s already there,” he said. “It’s going to have a⁣ greater economic impact. The $2.5 million actually leverages the total amount of what’s‍ going ‍to be closer to ⁣$50 million. There’s no other projects in the pipeline that will leverage that much money and actually have that big of an ‌economic impact.”

The $50 million arena will be financed through $10 million in state funding secured by‌ Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, ‍as ⁣well as approximately $20 million from the developers.

Union College will also contribute approximately ‌$20 million in long-term funding, with a 25-year deal for ⁤the college’s two Division 1⁤ hockey teams to serve as building tenants.

“Part of what excites⁢ me about this is having Union really be engaged with the community,” college President David Harris told the council during Tuesday’s meeting. “I ​think it’s‌ a win for Union and it’s a win for Schenectady.”

The college’s hockey teams currently⁣ play at‍ the on-campus Frank L. Messa Rink ⁣at Achilles Center, ‌a facility built​ in 1975.

The city has⁢ not contributed any funding to the Mohawk Harbor Arena project to this point.

It’s a process

During the prolonged 2024 city budget process, Council President Marion Porterfield and Councilmembers John Mootooveren, Damonni Farley, and Carl Williams supported a proposal to use $1.7 million of the city’s remaining ARPA ⁤money to balance ‌the spending plan. McCarthy vetoed the budget that‍ contained that proposal.

Porterfield noted during the Tuesday ​meeting that the arena project had not⁢ been submitted through the city’s ARPA selection process by which the council ultimately chose 33 projects to receive a total of $25.9 million in ARPA funding in the summer of 2022.

Porterfield was noncommittal on Wednesday regarding‍ the possibility of supporting the use‌ of ARPA ⁣funding for ⁣the arena‌ project.

“In considering the ARPA funds, we ask people to ​submit applications and this project​ did not do that,” she said. “I⁤ know the ask is to move money from a project that we rescinded money from because they were seeking to have a presence at‌ the Mohawk Harbor, however that was never solidified. There was never any money that was allocated to Mohawk Harbor. The money was allocated to a particular project with the aquatic center.”

Porterfield said⁣ the application ‍process‍ is currently closed, with no⁢ avenue available for the arena project to submit a formal application unless the process is reopened.

“If we open the formal process, then we have to open it to everyone, not just one group,” Porterfield said Wednesday. “If we’re trying to keep this fair​ and an even playing‌ field, to do that ​we’d have to open it to others.”

The city must allocate the ARPA funding by the end of 2024.

Gillen said the ⁤requested funding for the arena would be used exclusively on infrastructure ‍for the project.

Porterfield said that the $2.5 million — ‍which amounts to most of the city’s remaining ARPA funds — could be used for infrastructure ⁤projects in the city if it is not allocated for the ‌arena project.

“The city has ⁤numerous projects it needs ‍to complete⁣ and, in addition to that, we⁣ could use that money for some of ‍our capital projects, ⁣which would allow us to⁤ not have to bond⁤ as ⁢much money.”

Gillen noted during the council meeting that the arena site had languished for decades after the closure of the ALCO locomotive ​plant, which‌ was earmarked for​ a tire recycling facility at the turn of⁣ the century and has remained abandoned after that concept didn’t materialize.

Gillen said if the $2.5 million ​in ARPA‍ funding from the aquatic center had not become available, the arena developers would have sought an alternate revenue stream.

“The aquatic center was seriously looking at the site and everyone decided it was better off at ViaPort and, at the same time, the arena project really came into play and started to come ​into fruition,” Gillen⁢ said following Tuesday’s meeting. “So, the decision ⁢was made to ask for that same allocation to go to the arena to help with the⁢ funding. All of the different financing has⁢ to come together to make the arena work. [ARPA funding is] going for⁢ infrastructure at the harbor, when it would ‌have been used for infrastructure for the aquatic center, so it’s really similar.”

Rivers Casino has‌ donated the property where the​ arena ⁢would ​be built.

Nearing the finish

The project has received final approval from the Schenectady Planning Commission, but Buicko told the council that the developers have yet to make⁤ the final call on whether to move forward with the arena project as they wait to see if the city​ will contribute to the financing ⁤of the project.

Buicko noted that the Galesi Group could build⁤ apartments at the proposed arena site​ but would prefer​ to construct a ‌facility that would benefit the public at large.

McCarthy said there is no⁤ alternative funding stream from the city​ for ⁣the arena project if the‌ council opts not to contribute funding.

“There’s really no reason that the council shouldn’t‍ move forward with that project,” the mayor said on Wednesday.

Buicko told the council that the project is shovel-ready and that ⁣construction ‍could begin within 90 days for a projected fall 2025 opening date if the funding is secured.

Buicko noted that the facility could host basketball and soccer games in addition to hockey, as well as graduations and trade shows.

“The payback and the return on investment, we ‌feel, ⁣will be dramatic for the city,” he ⁤told the council.

Emily Stanton
Emily Stanton
Emily Stanton, a skillful journalist previously based in Boston, is adept at covering a diverse array of stories. Her thorough and engaging reporting style, honed with a Master's in Journalism from Boston University, focuses on community-relevant stories.
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  1. Disagree McCarthy’s support for using ARPA funds for the Mohawk Harbor Arena development raises concerns about the allocation of resources and the potential neglect of more pressing community needs.

  2. I disagree with McCarthy’s decision to use ARPA funds for the Mohawk Harbor Arena development. It seems like a misallocation of resources that could be better utilized for other community needs.

  3. Disagree The decision to use ARPA funds for the Mohawk Harbor Arena development is questionable and raises concerns about prioritizing community needs.


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