News broke earlier this week that the city of Irvine is in negotiations with a foundation connected with the Anaheim Ducks to construct three to five ice arenas at the Great Park that the city will lease to the foundation for $1 a year. Sound familiar?
But the proposal, which is being studied closely by city staff and isn’t yet final, lacks the bitching and moaning about corporate welfare that our friends to the West had about the now dead proposal to lease an area near Angels Stadium to Arte Moreno for $1 a year so he could — at his risk and own expense — develop the property, share profits with the city of Anaheim, and use proceeds to pay for significant improvements to an aging stadium or build a brand new one.
The construction of a public, nonprofit ice skating facility run by the firm that manages the Anaheim Ducks hockey club may be approved for the Great Park as soon as a month from now.
Irvine officials on Tuesday unanimously directed staff to return within 30 to 60 days with an agreement between the city and H&S Ventures, the firm that manages the club, for such a facility.
Negotiations between the city over terms for an ice facility at the Great Park kicked off back in January 2011.
However, a lack of infrastructure to the site, such as roads and utilities, put the talks on ice.
Points of the deals hammered out so far would put the facility at the southwest corner of the park, next to the festival site, which is between the weekly farmers market and a lawn area lined with palm trees that has hosted Cirque du Soleil touring productions.
The contract would be as long as 50 years, with an initial 35-year term, then three, five-year extensions possible.
Rent would be $1 annually. At the end of the contract, the city would get the facility for $10.
Since the city and H&S began negotiations in 2011, interest in ice-based sports have grown, so the site would likely be larger than the up to 10 acres originally considered, Eric Tolles, assistant city manager for the Great Park, said on Tuesday.
Under the terms, H&S would construct the rink at its expense, covering also operating and maintenance costs. Any revenue would be used to promote youth ice sports in Orange County.
And from the Daily Pilot:
“The opportunity to leverage city-owned land to attract a highly regarded private developer/operator appeared to be an ideal arrangement to avoid city costs while adding a valuable community amenity,” Lalloway said.
H&S would build and operate the multi-rink facility under the umbrella of its nonprofit Anaheim Ducks foundation, with the mission of promoting youth hockey among other ice sports in the community.
“This is not going to be a Ducks facility,” said Ducks CEO Michael Shulman as he addressed the council. This is primarily a facility for public use for the development of ice skating and ice hockey. Our hope is to design, develop, construct and maintain a facility without any taxpayer money.”
Preliminary design concepts include at least three and possibly up to five sheets of ice on the property. One primary rink would have room to seat 2,500 spectators.
“We want to promote the sport. I think this a perfect place to do that,” Shulman added.
Eric Tolles, assistant city manager for the Great Park, whose lagging development has been the focus of grand jury investigations, outlined a lease proposal. It calls for the management company to incur all building and operational costs, including maintenance and repairs on the facility, with the city being responsible for infrastructure leading to the building. This would include electricity, gas, sewer and water lines as well as off-street parking.
There are some expressed concerns from Council members Beth Krom and Christina Shea about the $1 a year figure but none from residents so far. And none from the usual whiners and moaners in Anaheim about this deal in my city. No word from Cynthia Ward, the OJ Bloviators Greg Diamond and Vern Nelson, nothing from Tom Tait, no Voice of OC stories from Adam Elmahrek…squat. Silence. So why is one deal for a dollar a year so bad and the other so good when both communities gain a valuable asset paid for by someone else who assumes all the risk?
We’re already hearing once the facility is up and running, the Ducks may train in Irvine instead of Anaheim because the Irvine arena will be easier to drive to and park at compared to Anaheim’s Disney Ice. And its entirely possible visiting NHL teams will use the Irvine facility for practice in advance of games at the Honda Center instead of wherever they do now.
For my neighbors in Irvine, the news has garnered more excitement than outrage. They were more upset at handing over the development of the Great Park to Emile Haddad for a less than Great Park so he could profit from the construction and sale of homes that may net FivePoint close to a billion in profits (and IEs for the Republican majority as far as the eye can see). And the parts of the Great Park done first will be the ones to benefit all those new homes going in. But up to five ice arenas for a buck a year…not a big deal. Meh.
Irvine once had a nice ice arena on Michelson Ave near Boomers. Wayne Gretzky filmed a Maxwell House coffee commercial there with his wife. It’s a Temple now. New arenas at the Great Park built and managed with someone else’s money is not a bad thing at all. Perhaps the naysayers in Anaheim can take note.