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Multi-purpose entertainment, sports facility eyeing Massena as potential location

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MASSENA - Depending on the results of a yet to be conducted feasibility study, Massena may soon be home to a multi-purpose sports and entertainment complex that could potentially include a hotel, an indoor-outdoor water park, ice rinks and an indoor turf field.

Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, in a statement released Friday morning, said the town board voted 5-0 to fund a feasibility study to look at whether such a venture could be profitable.

“In a 5-0 vote after an executive session Wednesday evening, the town council agreed to a memorandum of understanding with Manhattan Investment Partners and its affiliate, Venue Strategies, LLC, to jointly pursue an effort on a phased basis regarding the analysis, planning, programming and development of the proposed multi-purpose events center to serve Massena and the surrounding region,’” Mr. Gray said.

While little had been known about the project, Mr. Gray said this is something that has actually been in the works for some time.

“We’ve been negotiating with Venue Strategies for about six months on this project. I wasn’t sure if we were ready to finalize it but after discussing it further with Town Attorney Eric Gustafson at our meeting Wednesday we decided to move ahead with the MOU,” Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Gray and Mayor James F. Hidy said they would like to give credit to the Business Development Corporation and its executive director, Thomas Sullivan, for helping to bring the project to this point.

“Tom Sullivan and the BDC should be commended for bringing this project to both the town and village boards for discussion,” according to the mayor.

Mr. Hidy said the village will not be taking any action related to the project, as the town has agreed to fund the study using up to $82,000 in gaming compact revenue.

“There are a whole bunch of ideas that the study will look at,” Mr. Gray said. “We don’t know if any of these ideas or all of them will be viable, but we’re going to take a look at it.”

Venue Strategies Principal Partner David Machlica, in Friday’s release, said his Manhattan-based firm was looking forward to working with Massena officials.

“Our firm is pleased to be working with the town of Massena to study the feasibility of the proposed multi-purpose event center. We believe such a facility has the potential to add measurably to the quality of life of the community and act as a significant catalyst for economic growth.”

Mr. Gray said an understandable comparison would be the former race track proposal in Brasher, but he noted that project and this project are two very different things.

“One of the initial reactions, and an understandable one, from at least one town board member was, ‘I hope this is not another race track.’ It’s not,” he said. “They weren’t looking for any money all they said was, ‘We need to do this study, and we would like you to pay for it. Development and management will be all on them and if it doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint and if they can’t make money it won’t be built.”

Phase one of the project involves a Market Demand Study focusing on the Massena region and an area within a roughly 65-mile radius. The study will seek to identify the market need and demand for a multi-purpose event center in the town of Massena.

Specifically, the study will exam the market demand for multiple venues, including an indoor-outdoor year ‘round water park; ice sheet(s) for hockey tournaments, figure skating competitions, clinic and camps; an expandable indoor turf space for all sports such as lacrosse, soccer, softball, baseball, football, gymnastics, etc.; special event and meeting space for conventions, meetings, trade shows, concerts, events, etc.; health and wellness activities such as an indoor track, rock climbing, fitness spaces, aerobics/dance studios; lodging in the form of a hotel co-located at the facility; and ancillary space such as restaurants, retail shops, equipment rental, etc.

While neither Mr. Gray or Mr. Hidy would identify potential sites for the project, they both said several locations have been discussed.

Both men also said this would be great news for the community.

“It would certainly be an economic boost to our community, as well as the entire region,” Mr. Hidy said.

Mr. Gray echoed those sentiments. “This is a very intriguing opportunity,” he said.

Mr. Gray and Mr. Hidy stressed they wanted to make it clear the project being is not designed as a replacement for the Massena Arena.

“There is no connection between the arena, Dick’s and this project,” Mr. Gray said. “That is merely a coincidence. The arena is not going anywhere.”

Mr. Hidy agreed. “For those individuals who have selective reading comprehension in no way or manner is this project intended to replace Massena Arena,” he said. “People have to understand this is a private company introducing an exciting business venture to the community. This is not being proposed by the town or village. This is a private company looking to locate here.”

Mr. Gray said once the study begins the town should have a completed product within four months.

“The MOU calls for a draft of the study to be completed and submitted to the town within 120 days of the signing of the agreement,” he said. “The town will submit comments on the draft and a final market demand study will be submitted to the town no more than 45 days of submission of the draft.”

Venue Strategies, LLC, based in New York City, is engaged in the planning, programming, development, financing, and operation of public assembly facilities, multi-purpose sports venues, and destination event and entertainment centers.

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