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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Schenectady County set to grant $5M to Mohawk Harbor arena


A potential hockey arena and events center at Mohawk Harbor is on the brink of securing $5 million in funding from Schenectady County. This is the latest round of public funding for the project, which ⁤is projected⁣ to cost around ⁢$50 ⁣million.

On Tuesday, the county Legislature will ‌deliberate on a resolution that proposes the allocation of $5 million from the American Rescue ⁤Plan Act to ​finance the 97,000-square-foot facility. The facility ⁣is planned to be situated⁣ between Rivers Casino & Resort and the harbor. ⁤The project is⁣ spearheaded by Galesi Group, a renowned developer responsible for the revitalization of Mohawk Harbor.

“The project⁣ wouldn’t be possible without this $5‍ million,” stated Schenectady County Attorney Christopher‌ Gardner, who drafted the proposal.

If the proposal is approved, the county ⁣will enter into a seven-year public benefits agreement ⁤with West Yard Properties, LLC, a⁤ subsidiary of the Galesi Group. This agreement‍ would designate the venue as a contingency‍ site for the‌ popular SummerNight ​event and SUNY Schenectady ‍graduation ⁣in⁣ case‍ of bad ‌weather.

The venue would also be obligated to host 15 events each year for the duration of the agreement. If the arena fails to achieve 75% of the⁤ annual events target in a year,​ West ‌Yard Properties would be required to refund 1/7th of the initial grant to the county, as per the agreement. The agreement will come into effect the first calendar year after ​the facility is granted a certificate of occupancy.

Gardner mentioned that the county has been in talks about the proposed funding for approximately a⁣ year with the Galesi Group and Union ⁢College.​ Union College is expected to sign a long-term lease ⁢agreement with the developer,⁢ making the facility the​ new home‍ for its Division I ⁣hockey ​teams.

Union⁣ College hockey is currently played at Messa Rink at the Achilles Center on campus, a facility built in the 1970s that‌ is in dire⁣ need of​ upgrades.

Union‍ games‍ played at‌ the arena will‍ count towards the⁢ 15 required events under the benefits agreement. Union’s men’s and women’s ​teams had over 30 home games scheduled for their 2023-24 seasons.

“As long as they get it built, they should be able to comply with it,” Gardner said, referring to the public benefit agreement with West Yard Properties.

The idea ⁣for an arena at Mohawk Harbor was first introduced as part of Schenectady’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative award in 2019. However,‌ the idea was put ⁣on hold in favor of other projects.

The concept was revived in April 2022, when Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, announced that he had secured $10 million⁤ in​ state ​funding for the facility.

“This is ‍Schenectady’s next‍ major project,” Santabarbara told The ⁢Daily Gazette at the time.

The arena, which will have a seating ⁢capacity of 2,200 for hockey games and 3,595 for other events, had its site plans approved by the Schenectady Planning ⁤Commission last year.

Since then, the project has received millions in public ⁤support and tax exemptions, which developers have said are necessary to advance the project due to high interest rates and escalating costs ​of construction ‌materials.

The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority approved​ a mortgage ​and sales ‌tax ‍exemptions for ‍the project last December, and entered into a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the developer.

The Schenectady City Council was also expected to ‌award $2.5 million in ARPA funding for the project on Monday. The funds were ‍originally awarded to the⁢ Capital Region Aquatic Center, but were withdrawn​ after the organization announced it would be proceeding with plans at the ViaPort shopping mall ⁢in Rotterdam last year.

The council meeting took place after the Daily ⁤Gazette family of newspapers’ print deadline, but lawmakers expressed support for the funding​ during a committee meeting last week.

The city‍ is expected to⁢ enter into⁤ its own public ⁣benefit agreement with the Galesi Group in exchange for the funding.

Gardner stated that the arena is expected‌ to ‍break ground soon ⁤and highlighted the​ positive impact the⁤ project will⁣ have on the county’s sales and occupancy tax once the ‍facility is built.

“I believe it will be a tremendous asset to the community,” he said.

The Schenectady County Legislature will convene at 7 p.m.‍ Tuesday at the Schenectady County Office Building, ⁢620 State St., Schenectady.

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. This is a terrible decision. There are much more pressing needs in Schenectady County that should be prioritized over funding an arena. #Disagree


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