Left In Lowell

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June 4, 2007

Selective Memory

by at 4:29 pm.

I want to echo the sentiments expressed in “The Column” in yesterday’s Sun. Yes, they quickly forget. The “they” are those critics of the contract between the City and the AHL Devils for their use of the Tsongas Arena. The forgetting is the full court press in some circles to dismiss the events of last winter and spring..

According to the Column, not only is in-coming U. Mass Lowell Chancellor and current Congressman Marty Meehan pressuring the City to renegotiate the University’s agreement with the City concerning the Tsongas Arena. The Chancellor-select has been joined by the stealth-like Lowell Civic Stadium and Arena Commission.

Where were these people last winter and spring? Their only job is to “Advises the City Manager on issues pertaining to the Lowell Arena and the Civic Stadium.”

We all know what happened. In January 2006, a few days after Mayor Bill Martin was sworn into office he was informed by the locally-owned Lockmonsters that the team was up for sale. The Mayor along with then City Manager John Cox formed a task force if civic leaders and they went to work immediately to “Save the Lockmonsters.” They did what the City wanted them to do at the time.

Then the New Jersey Devils agreed to purchase the Lock monsters (and we were thrilled) with two conditions: 1) an increase in season-ticket sales; and 2) a new lease for their use of the Tsongas arena. So businesses and individuals were strongly influenced to buy season tickets. And everyone chipped in; including U. Mass Lowell who according to the April 15, 2006 edition of the Sun, the University committed to 50 season tickets.

According to an article written by Mike Lafleur in the May 14th edition of the Sun, Arena Commission Chairman John Costello, Jr. believes that “the city and UMass Lowell could be in a better financial position to pay for the project [fixing the ice] if the Lowell Devils no longer played 40 sparsely attended home games at the arena each year. Lafleur adds that “Costello said the pact has become too much of a financial burden on the arena.”

And here is the direct quote that infuriated me, “It’s a fairly onerous contract [the one with the Devils].” Why didn’t Mr. Costello speak up when the City Council was discussing this contract? If the Arena Commission was not privy to the negotiations and was only informed of the details after the fact, then Mr. Costello could have whispered to his former colleagues at the Sun.

But that is not what happened!

Then there is the op-ed written by Dana Skinner that appeared in the Lowell Sun on May 29th. As the Athletic Director of U. Mass Lowell, he outlines quite well the problems facing the University’s hockey program, and the history of the arena as it relates to U. Mass/Lowell. But as one of the three University representatives on the Arena Commission when did he become aware that the U. Mass Trustees had a problem with the rental agreement? And when did he make the City aware of those concerns? Those questions are not answered.

Furthermore, last June another University representative on the Arena Commission applied for the City Manager’s position. During her lengthy interview, did she discuss her concerns, if she had any regarding the Devils’ contract?

Today, the Devils contract may not be in the best interest of the City but it was a decision that we ALL made; now we ALL need to take responsibility for our collective actions.

3 Responses to “Selective Memory”

  1. waittilnextyr Says:

    It appears that the arena commission was derelict in its responsibility to the City and the University. Maybe they caved into pressure from others at the time, but they cannot use that as an excuse.

    With this year’s budget proposal, CM Lynch had a little leverage with the contract’s dependency on funds being authorized by the city, and with that he was able to reduce the loss by the $125K extra payment from the Devils when he didn’t include those funds in the city budget.

    But that still leaves the city with a deficit in operations over $700K unless the management of the arena can reduce that with other events in the coming year. And if UMASS Lowell exacts a “better deal” for the university with their, that deficit could increase.

  2. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    If I recall, the arena was supposed to be larger that it is now, with an additional rink in the plans.

    If that second rink had come in at a price that was expected I wonder if we’d be having the same discussion…probably.

    Lynch is right, there is no way he can cry poor mouth to the Devils and get a higher rent from them then turn around and give UMass a break.

    There is also no way the Devils were going to walk away from this contract, why should they? It’s a much better deal than even the one they will eventually give themselves when they finally do move the team to NJ.

    The so called watchdogs on the Arena commission need to be replaced for falling asleep at the switch and not going before the CC and telling everyone what a bad deal the city was getting.

    Lynch also needs to light a fire under the arena management company and get them to utilize the arena to its fullest, Manchester seems to be able to get top flight entertainment in the Verizon Center as one example.

    And oh yeah, with all due respect to Paul Tsongas, the naming rights should have been sold for the arena and the ballpark thus generating additional renewable income. Maybe it’s not too late to do that.

    random thoughts.

  3. waittilnextyr Says:

    It appears that there is a tentative deal between the city and the University to keep college hockey at the arena for at least one more year. Beyond that, it may depend on whether the Devils elect their option at the end of this year.

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