Williamsport and Watertown, N.Y. - both are in a heated contest to snag a professional ice hockey team, but one - Watertown - already has an indoor arena ready to go.
After several months of negotiations, the city is given a 50-50 chance to land a professional hockey team.
"I'd say it's a 50-percent chance," said Don Kirnan, commissioner of the Federal Hockey League, based in Dewitt, N.Y., regarding the city's chances after reports surfaced that Watertown's city council and city manager have lobbied Kirnan and his daughter, Nicole Kirnan, to bring another team to an existing arena in upstate New York.
"Yeah, our council and manager are excited about it," said Elliott Nelson, confidential assistant to the city manager of Watertown. "At the instruction of city council, the city is in negotiations with Nicole Kirnan," he said. The purpose is to make Watertown Municipal Arena their home ice, he said.
Kirnan said if a hockey team came to the city it won't be the 1000 Island Privateers. "It'll be a different team," he said.
That's a slightly different scenario than what was presented at City Hall here in December when the Kirnans sat down in a public meeting with Mayor Gabriel J. Campana and pitched the idea of a team to a room filled with ice skating and hockey enthusiasts.
"We're not negotiating against Watertown," Campana said late Friday afternoon after he spoke with Watertown management. "I believe both cities could be successful with the Federal Hockey League."
Campana said he's acting as a facilitator on the project and has spoken with up to 15 developers and business individuals, maintaining he doesn't want to spent tax money on the venture.
"I want to emphasize multi-purpose arena - not just for figure skating, ice skating and hockey," he said. "The key is family entertainment."
Campana views the arena as a way to improve economic development by attracting visitors who will spend their money downtown and as a tourist attraction to add vitality to the city.
"I've been advocating for 15 years that this community have a multi-purpose arena," Campana said. Campana said he broached the idea in the 1990s while he was on City Council and then took a trip to Elmira, N.Y., to look at the arena there.
Still, Kirnan said the chance remains for officials in Lycoming County's only city to seal the deal by this year, acknowledging the biggest stumbling block has been in getting investors for the multi-million dollar project.
"We're trying to establish that," Kirnan said of securing investors. The cost, once an arena is built, can be as much as $80,000 a month or about $1 million a year, Kirnan said in a prior interview.
Kirnan also confirmed Friday that among the sites under consideration for the hockey team to play at is the Pickelner Arena on the property of the Young Men's Christian Association a block away from City Hall.
"We have a couple of ideas and that is one of the proposals," he said.
River Valley YMCA Executive Director Dave Fagerstrom declined to confirm or deny such information, however. "We're working with the city to do what's best," he said. "Our board hasn't discussed it."
Kirnan said the city remains in the running because it's the right size for professional hockey teams of this caliber.
"It can't be a city a mile away from a National Hockey League team," Kirnan said. "You need enough people to support it. You need a couple of thousand people going to games."