BATAVIA — Some residents, through comments read during the last couple of City Council meetings, have encouraged the city to keep needed improvements to Falleti Ice Arena in mind.
Just one example of that was an email, read at Monday’s City Council meeting, from Mary Ellen Reardon on behalf of her family, which strongly supports making upgrades and improvements to the rink.
Reardon, whose family has been involved in local hockey, contends that the rink at Falleti, “is one of the most poorly maintained rinks in the WNY region.”
“This city has put money into improving facilities that are used for much shorter times during the year. Please help us to maintain and improve this important and vital part of our community,” Reardon wrote.
During a look around the arena Friday morning, Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, Department of Public Works Director Ray Tourt and Firland Management General Manager Alan Fitzsimmons talked with The Daily News about the current status of the rink. Firland operates the rink, through a lease agreement.
The city, in the last few years, has replaced dehumidifiers, renovated showers, had partial flooring work done and repaired the bleacher heat. Work done prior to that included floor replacement in 1990, new dasher boards and glass in 2000 and a new roof in 2002.
Projects slated for 2021 include replacing the arena’s front doors, bathroom fixtures and bathroom stalls for a total of $19,500. Projects scheduled for over the next three years are heat for the party room, upgrading lighting to LED and roof exhaust fan repair. In 2022-23, the plan is to separate the utilities between the city Fire Station and the arena.
Tourt said separating the utilities is a project that’s been talked about since 2015.
“It makes each one an independent structure,” he said.
Tabelski said looking ahead, the city will have to use the multi-sport complex feasibility study from February 2020 and talk about long-term planning with a stakeholder group in order to make long-term decisions on the rink.
“Do we want to make major upgrades and bring it to the level of other arenas? I think, really, a comprehensive look at the situation today, ‘What’s our strategy to move forward and how will we execute that?’ is where the city stands.”
Tabelski noted the change in the city manager’s office. The city is still looking for a permanent manager following Martin Moore’s departure in June 2020.
“Typically, that type of exercise would be led out of the manager’s office,” she said of rink improvement planning. “I think that would be something to look forward to in ‘21-’22.
“I do think it draws a big, economic benefit to have this rink here. The city just needs to work on some investments over time,” she said. “As with everything, COVID’s put a halt to planning. I think the turnover at the management level of the city has also given us a three-year period where the focus on this hasn’t been (at the) forefront.”
The lease agreement for Firland to operate Falleti runs out March 31.
“We’re working on negotiating a one-year extension of that at this time. It’ll be coming up shortly at a Council meeting. We’ll be talking about the operations,” Tabelski said. “It’s very similar to Dwyer (Stadium). We own the facility. We do capital improvements and we have an operator.”
Tabelski said naming rights for Falleti Ice Arena expired years ago, she said.
“We are hoping to put out an RFP in 2021 for naming rights for the facility,” she said. “The funds that we bring in for that would go directly back into the facility.
Fitzsimmons said high school hockey games are scheduled for almost every night there. Batavia High School is playing one game there a week for now and the rink is getting regional use.
High school hockey will be finished March 2. Men’s League hockey ends March 21, The Genesee Amateur Hockey Association’s last weekend is March 27-28, he said.
“When we decide when we’re going to end basically comes down to who’s still playing and how much are they taking,” Fitzsimmons said. “It also boils down to, ‘When does the Home Show want to come in?’ That’s usually how I make the decision of when we’re switching to summer.”
The estimate on use hours per year for the arena was 1,600. Estimated annual attendance was 68,500 and estimated annual economic output was $2.3 million, the city said.
The limit on spectators in the arena is 240, which is 50 percent of its capacity.
“We’ve had zero problems since we started doing that,” Fitzsimmons said.
Public skating has a limit of 75 people due to COVID restrictions. The arena is not hosting Friday and Saturday night Public Skate right now, he said.
Public skating is set for 11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1-2:30 p.m. and 3-4:30 p.m. Sundays. This Sunday, there is one public skate time, from 5-6:30 p.m.