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Ice rink making money

February 17, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

The winter months have drawn skaters to the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex, which has recorded its first profitable month in a year.

The skating rink made a profit in January and is expected to be profitable again this month, said Gary Wright, chairman of the Washington County Sports Foundation, which oversees the operation of the rink.

The rink last showed a profit in January 1998 and almost broke even the following month. But Wright said this year's figures are better and are an indicator of the rink's increasing popularity and its long-term success.

"Yes, it's the winter season, but there's more of them skating there this year than last," Wright said.

An increasing number of skaters, coming in groups and swelling the ranks of the hockey programs, are bringing more money into the rink.

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According to Wright, the rink took in $10,000 more than its operating expenses in January 1998, but those profits were boosted by a $15,000 payment from hockey programs.

This year, payments from the hockey programs did not come in during January and the rink still took in an estimated $3,000 more than operating expenses, which are about $40,000 a month.

Wright estimated the rink is on pace for an estimated $4,000 profit this month, compared with losing about $680 in February 1998.

Despite these good months, the rink is expected to run at a deficit again this year.

Since opening in August 1997, the rink has run up a debt of almost $170,000. It owes about $155,000 to the City of Hagerstown for unpaid rent and utility bills, and about $13,500 to Ann Arbor, Mich.-based JRV Management Inc. That company managed the rink for about nine months but resigned in December because the company wasn't being paid.

Wright said it probably would be two years before the rink begins to break even for the year.

According to foundation projections, it will probably be four or five more years before the rink is out of debt, he said.

"The rink is far from being out of the financial woods," Wright said.

Any previous expectations that the rink would be profitable during its first year or after just a few years were unrealistic, he said.

"It takes a while to build a program," he said.

Meanwhile, foundation board members are taking other steps to improve the rink's financial situation.

They have decided the rink will close during the summer if the number of skaters coming to the rink drops.

The foundation would save about $25,000 each month the rink is closed, Wright said.

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