Mayor Gabriel J. Campana wants an ice rink built at Bowman Field for a minor league professional hockey team and claims it would cost the city nothing and would be used by the public for ice skating, youth hockey and even winter holiday events.
"Airmen Pond at historic Bowman Field" is what Campana is calling the project, and he is claiming it will bring the Williamsport Outlaws professional hockey club to town.
"Airman" is the name of a heating and air conditioning company and one of the primary sponsors of the project, according to the mayor.
As a crowd gathered outside the field, temperatures rose to uncomfortable levels, making a discussion about ice sports seem odd at best.
But the mayor was serious and representatives of the Federal Hockey League, which has teams in the New York metropolitan area, New England, Canada and the Midwest, were present and said they were committed to bringing the franchise to Bowman field until construction of an indoor multi-purpose arena.
Initial costs discussed
Outlaws owner Kristin Ann Rooney, team president and head coach Chris Firriolo and Don Kirnan, commissioner of the Federal Hockey League, attended the conference.
Fiorriolo said it would take about $200,000 to $225,000 to get the ice rink up and running.
The team has collected about $100,000 from different funding sources, Kirnan said. Asked what they were, he said a $50,000 grant has been committed to the team as part of the hotel room tax from the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau and another $50,000 from private donations.
Kirnan said it will be up to the community to make it succeed.
The $100,000 shortfall will have to be generated from ticket revenue from the games and fees assessed to people using the ice rink, he added.
The listed price to watch the Outlaws is $14 for adults, and $12 for children age 10 and under. Season tickets also are available.
"The hockey team is going to use the facility 15 percent of the time or about 30 games or so," Fiorriolo said. The team will use the facility after the Williamsport Crosscutters' baseball season ends and before it is used by college and high school teams in the spring.
Upgrades of the park's plumbing and winterization issues were discussed by the public works' committee and Bowman Field Commission Tuesday. Those costs would come from the Streets and Parks Department budget, Campana said.
City Council has a copy of the proposed maintenance and operations agreement in preparation for Thursday night's meeting.
The Outlaws will pay a rental fee of $15,000 for the use of the field. "It's a one-year agreement," Kirnan said. A $1 million insurance policy for liability purposes also is included in the agreement. It would cover spectators, employees, hockey players and others.
The hockey club launched its inaugural season in the league in 2011-12 season. If council approves the plan, the Outlaws would arrive in the city coming off a championship season after capturing the 2012 Commissioner's Cup in their first season.
"Williamsport embodies all the important elements to be an exceptional minor league hockey market," Fiorriolo said.
The mission of the league is to develop professional hockey players and provide affordable family entertainment.
Rooney said she wanted the team in the city because "she fell in love with it."
"We had issues with playing in Wayne, N.J.," she said. With her parents living across the state in Ohio, Rooney said she thinks the city is a natural fit.
She offered a challenge to the players, too, to play to the level they did when the captured the championship.