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Consultant says ice rink might be saved

March 02, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Pennsylvania business consultant trying to save the Doris I. Billow Ice Arena said Thursday he has "handshake" agreements with five investors who have pledged $500,000 of the $700,000 needed to keep the rink from its scheduled March 10 date with the auctioneer's block.

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If he succeeds, Curt Baker said he will turn $480,000 of the total over to F&M Bank in Chambersburg, Pa., to bring the financially troubled rink's mortgage up to date. The other $220,000 will help launch iSK8, Baker's new for-profit ice-rink management company.

The five corporate and individual investors have pledged on handshakes to put up an average of $100,000 each in what Baker acknowledges is a risky venture, he said.

The rink on Pa. 16 in Zullinger, Pa., has been in the red since it opened in December 1997. Baker said he won't file papers to incorporate his new business until all of the $700,000 is in hand. He said he has meetings with more potential investors next week and expressed confidence that he'll take the campaign "over the top" before March 10, when the rink is scheduled to be sold at a sheriff's sale in Chambersburg.

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He declined to identify the investors, saying only that all are local.

Baker's plan to save the rink and launch his own company at the same time was embraced by the board of directors of Cumberland Valley On Ice, the nonprofit board that owns the $3.5 million ice rink. They took him up on the last-ditch effort to save the rink on Feb. 11, the date the sheriff's sale was originally scheduled to take place.

F&M Bank wants the rink be sold to recover its $1.8 million mortgage. Bank officers agreed to wait until March 10 to give Baker, who runs a private consulting business, a chance to raise the money.

Baker said he will need another $500,000 on top of the $700,000 to make a go of his new business. He said he will seek investors in the Philadelphia area for the rest. His company would set up business plans and manage ice rinks around the country, do bulk buying for skate rink pro shops, do consulting and set up "e-commerce" Web sites.

There is no quick fix for the Billow rink, Baker said. "It will take l18 months to get it to a break-even point," he said. He said it needs a business plan and a steady management team to get there.

The rink has had a string of managers since it opened.

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