Hockey suit: Best outcome would be more mature appoach

The city has taken its long-promised legal action against the Williamsport Outlaws, the hockey team that played an aborted season at Bowman Field last winter. The goal is to collect $54,757 in unpaid bills, a rent check and a fee.

The suit is filed against the Syracuse Junior Hockey Club, a nonprofit corporation registered in Dewitt, N.Y. that is headed by the Federal Hockey League president Don Kirnan and which operated the ice hockey rink, Williamsport Outlaws LLC, and club owner Kristin Rooney, of Phoenix, Ariz. We wish the city luck with the suit. And we believe it will take more than a little of that to recover this money.

The city has to prove Rooney should be held personally liable for unpaid bills because she was responsible for undercapitalizing the Outlaws, resulting in disbanding of the team, failure to pay obligations and failure to pay other creditors.

Proving such things is easier said than done, though the city does have as evidence a Bowman Field that was unplayable for the annual Backyard Brawl among local high school baseball teams in May.

Whether or not the city wins its suit, lessons must be learned here. All of this happened because the administration and City Council announced and approved minor league hockey in less than a week’s time last summer at an outdoor rink in a baseball stadium for games scheduled often during the snow and cold of winter. To be charitable, this was a hasty, overly optimistic gambit. Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said that because the city is planning to enter into a naming right agreement for Bowman Field at $30,000 for five years, it will have the money to make up for the unpaid bills and another $100,000 leftover. That’s true. It’s also a positive spin that glosses over what happened here.

This was poor decision-making that can’t be repeated for a city that struggles with fiscal woes annually, has streets in deplorable condition and a looming pension crisis.

We don’t fault the enthusiasm behind the idea. But we hope the embarrassing outcome makes the administration and council pause and take a deep breath before approving the next brainstorm in less than a week.