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Sale of Pa. ice rink among options

November 18, 1999|By DON AINES

ZULLINGER, Pa. - A feasibility study has concluded that a fund drive probably would not raise enough money to bail out the financially troubled Doris I. Billow Ice Arena, prompting its board to consider, among other options, selling the rink.

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"Our financial position is causing the board to evaluate and pursue all alternatives that will enable us to satisfy all creditors, which could include the sale of the rink," according to a statement issued Thursday by L. Michael Ross, president of the Board of Directors for Cumberland Valley on Ice, the nonprofit corporation that owns and operates the rink.

The $3 million ice rink, named for a retired teacher who left more than $500,000 in her will for a facility to train Olympic figure skaters, has been unable to make payments on its $1.85 million mortgage for the past several months. Board Member Carol Henicle said she did not know how many payments had been missed.

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"The support really wasn't there from the businesses outside the greater Waynesboro area," said Henicle, the executive director of the Waynesboro Chamber Commerce.

Ross said Thursday the $20,000 study, conducted by National Community Development Services of Atlanta, examined whether there was support to raise $2 million, "but that was rejected categorically."

The study then focused on a lower figure of $1.2 million, which Ross said "is possible under the right circumstances, but those circumstances don't exist right now."

"We don't have the right structure in place to go out and do that," Ross said.

The study concluded the board needs a capital campaign leadership committee made up of "highly identifiable community leaders and businesses," Ross said.

Henicle said the study surveyed about 70 area businesses in October. They included large and small companies and those that gave money to help build the rink, as well as others that did not.

Additionally, the study identified the rink's strengths and weaknesses. Its main strength is that it is a quality facility that gets high marks from users.

"Our marketing has not been strong, but that's a Catch-22, because marketing costs a lot of money," Henicle said.

"Our first thing is to make an appeal for someone who has the financial capability to be another Doris Billow," Henicle said.

An individual or group making a large donation could jump-start a new capital campaign, she said.

Cumberland Valley On Ice is continuing to work with F&M Bank of Chambersburg, Pa., which holds the mortgage, she said. The rink, which opened two years ago, will remain open because the bank "doesn't want the facility sitting empty," Henicle said.

"There has been quite a bit of programming that has been built in the past two years, particularly in hockey," Henicle said.

The building is more marketable for resale as a rink if it continues operating, she said.

"(Bank officials) haven't set any specific deadline, but they are watching very closely what happens in the next couple of weeks in terms of solidifying one of the two alternatives," Ross said.

If the arena does not receive substantial donations, it could be sold either for continued operation as a rink or for "adaptive reuse" by another type of business or manufacturer, Ross said.

"That's clearly the least desirable option," he said.

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