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Multi-million dollar renovations could come to Veterans Memorial Arena

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BINGHAMTON (WBNG) -- A two-phase renovation plan has been outlined for the Veterans Memorial Arena.

Arena Manager Chris Marion says proposals have been in the works since September of 2019.

"About a year ago we started working with the firm Perkins and Will and community stakeholders, users of the building, tenants and our own staff knowledge on what we wanted to see accomplished in this building," said Marion.

The result was a renovation proposal costing upwards of $180 million dollars.

Marion says phase one would cost an estimated $58 million dollars and involve improvements to the Arena's current space.

"What we're looking at is fan experience enhancements," said Marion. "
"Everything from food and beverage to entrance to exits. To where the locations of the restrooms are."

The renovations would also improve conditions for tenants, such as additional locker rooms.

Marion says the appearance of the Arena would significantly improve both inside and outside. The proposal presents an expansion of both the front and back of the Arena for loading docks and storage space, while also improving front of the house operations.

While Marion understands the cost is significant, he said it is ultimately more cost efficient than starting from scratch.

"We understand that it is a big number but that is everything everyone wanted to see," he said. "We put that all together, we projected it out a few years so we're looking at inflation. We're also looking at renovating a building while it's still being used over a multi-year period so all of those things add cost."

Marion says phase two is a more transformative project for the region.

"The phase two part is further down the road and much more expensive," he said.

Phase two would bring in a second ice rink and a convention center linked to the Arena. Marion said both would expand the amount of activities able to take place downtown, such as e-sports, additional tournaments and another spot for the AHL team to practice.

Phase two would also bring an addition hotel downtown, along with a new riverfront park system along the Susquehanna River.

Marion said phase two would cost roughly $125 million dollars.

"We would love to do them all together. I don't know if the funding is going to be there for something like that," he said.

With no funding currently in place, Marion said it's tough to set a timeline.

"When we started this it was pre-covid," he said. "We would be much further along in this. Spending priorities have changed."

Although the process has been slow, Marion is confident in the plans they've worked on.

"It's a complicated system but one we feel is worthwhile if it results in a Veterans Memorial Arena that the community can use for the next 50 years," said Marion.

Marion said he does not see a formal submission in the immediate future, but he's eyeing 2022 which is when a number of the Arena's contracts are up.

"We feel if we can secure funding between now and then we can leverage that into longer and better contracts with our main tenants, which all result in more money coming into this building, said Marion.

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Nicole Menner

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