"Thanks for your patience. Let's skate!"
With those words from City Council President Bill Hall, council Thursday night unanimously approved to lease part of Bowman Field to the Syracuse Junior Hockey Club and the newly named Williamsport Outlaws, a professional hockey team.
Its decision came after 10 supporters said winter entertainment, such as skating, ice shows and youth and adult hockey leagues, was a missing link to the region's growth.
Ice rink supporters applaud after City Council on Thursday approved a conditional use of Bowman Field as an ice skating rink during the winter months.
Council's primary sticking point was to ensure a $20,000 escrow fund would be available should the hockey organizations disappear before the April 1 deadline for the rink to be removed and the field restored to the specifications of the Williamsport Crosscutters baseball team.
Councilwoman Bonnie Katz said the project should employ local people through concession stands, ticket sales and skating lessons.
The rink will be used 85 percent of the time for public or community skating. During the remainder, 30 home games will be scheduled for the Outlaws, a team in the Federal Hockey League.
Councilman Jonathan Williamson noted the issue involved protecting the financial interest of the city and living up to contractual arrangements in place with the Crosscutters.
Campana said the rink is a temporary solution as the city works to convert Pickelner Arena, an indoor facility, into a multi-purpose arena with ice.
The inability to develop the 3 1/2 acres at the arena, according to Campana, and a compressed timeline didn't give the Outlaws, who left Wayne, N.J., enough time.
Campana said he was concerned the hockey team and non-profit Syracuse organization would find another community. He said former state Gov. Mark S. Schweiker encouraged Bowman Field to be used for more than professional baseball.
When asked what the urgency was to sign the contract, Chris Firriollo, president and head coach of the Outlaws said they left Capital One Ice Vault in Wayne because the facility, which seats 1,100 people, didn't fit their objectives.
"We outgrew the facility," he said.
When asked about the reality of people in Lycoming County sitting in sub-freezing weather to watch hockey outside, he said it's a one-year experiment while the arena plan moves forward. The outdoor rink will be a novelty, Firriollo added.
Among the concerns was whether the rink removal would damage the playing field. It's a given that sod will be replaced, but 19-year landscaper for Bowman Field, R.D. Slingerland, said while the job would be fairly extensive, he was comfortable it would require a minimal amount of restoration.
Councilman Don Noviello said such a unique concept as an outdoor community rink and professional hockey team homebase would put the city and region on the radar screen in ways it has not been in the past.
He considers family-oriented activities such as the soap box derby, Easter egg hunts and holiday parades to be positive draws, but using the field in this way will get the biggest bang for the tax buck out of the municipally-owned field, Noviello said.
Councilman Randall J. Allison noted how moving from the indoor arena plan to an outdoor venue in short order and a compact time period placed constraints on city officials that might otherwise have been mistaken as being obtrusive or against the project.
"We have an obligation to city finances," he said.
As for the cold temperatures, Rod Morgans, a member of the city recreation commission, suggested fans bring a blanket and a cushion.
He suggested much of the audience would come from those involved in hockey and skating leagues from high schools, colleges and clubs as well as figure and in-line skaters.