The October day in 2011 that developer Dan Klingerman joined county commissioners, local legislators and other luminaries to announce the construction of a 149,000-square-foot conference center at the former Faxon Lumber property, 1700 E. Third St., in Loyalsock Township, he told a reporter on video: "We felt it was an opportune time to capitalize on this positive momentum. The fact that this is our hometown, being able to put our thumbprint in our area, is something that we were very excited about."
"If a $5 million grant from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) is approved for release in the next couple weeks, Klingerman's thumbprint will be growing wider - the Destination 2014 project between Hepburn and Elmira and Third and Fourth streets will include a conference center and arena operated by The Liberty Group, of which Klingerman is president and CEO, once a new YMCA is built on Park Avenue.
One hotel tower is expected to be open by winter at the Faxon site, for which Klingerman paid $3.3 million, and a Buffalo Wild Wings should be operating there by September.
Developer Dan Klingerman stands in front of hotel construction at the former Faxon Lumber site in Loyalsock Township.
Destination 2014, which, if executed as planned also will include office space in a renovated YMCA building and a public green where a city parking lot is now, looks like it won't be a destination until mid-summer 2015, at the earliest.
Klingerman said he was asked to move the conference center to the city. "The Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau came to us about a year ago and asked if we'd consider downtown for a conference center, civic arena, sports arena," he said.
Williamsport Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said that in his role as "an ambassador for the city," he asked Klingerman to buy the YMCA property and build a conference center there.
Bill Burdett, manager of Loyalsock Township, doesn't see an issue with the conference center moving there from the Faxon site.
"It's no big deal if it's the conference center. If that doesn't happen something else will go onto the site. A restaurant and one tower were always part of (that project)."
Klingerman paid back a $500,000 loan from the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitor's Bureau in March, according to Jason Fink, vice president of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, money which now will be directed into the Destination 2014 project.
City Finance Director William Nichols said the $24.2 million project is asking for $5 million in RACP funds that already have been earmarked for the area but were not spent on other projects, including the Carl E. Stotz Little League Memorial Bridge on Market Street and a sports arena.
Klingerman's Liberty Group is contributing $10 million to Destination 2014. His group is buying the YMCA in stages, with Pickelner Arena the first chunk purchased - that deed was transferred in April and cost $520,000, but Klingerman said he thinks the total purchase price, including furnishings, was about $750,000.
According to the business plan submitted on April 15 for RACP approval, the Liberty Arena will have 2,450 fixed seats and 550 portable seats. It will feature an ice arena, with a convertible basketball floor that also may be used for wrestling and volleyball. There will be a 60,000-square-foot turf complex alongside the arena for baseball and soccer use.
The business plan projects 25 to 30 full-time jobs created by the arena, for a total of $360,000 a year in payroll. Total revenues are anticipated to be more than $1.2 million annually, and the ice will cost $405,000 a year to maintain.
The whole project is expected to provide 240 full-time jobs, 114 part-time jobs, and 188 indirect jobs, with a median wage of $48,000. Those projections are all dependent on the office space filling up with well-paying tenants, such as gas companies and a possible branch of Lock Haven University to train health service providers.
The business plan anticipates the generation of $1 million in state taxes. The property makes the state $53,937 a year now.
Though he has no experience building arenas, Klingerman said: "Our objective with an arena is to complement any existing facilities in downtown - we're doing it as an ancillary benefit to the community."
Klingerman said the Community Arts Center is supportive of the project and the arena doesn't plan on hosting music concerts. Though details for the basement still are a long way from being finalized, he said he'd like to see an "old-fashioned Irish pub, with a lot of mahogany and woodworking" there.
If the business plan is approved - and all the players expect to receive a letter from RACP within the next couple weeks - there is a six-month window to submit the final grant application. Then, according to Laura Templeton, of Rettew Associates, one of the firms that prepared the business plan, "the recipient would have six months from date of execution to begin construction on the project."
The business plan calls for construction of the conference and meeting centers, the retrofit of the YMCA and changes to the arena to be completed by July 1, 2015.
The Williamsport Green, on land that is used as a city parking lot, should be completed by June 1, 2016.