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Sports facility scores $1 million upgrade

Rochester Business Journal
May 30, 2014

The management of Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex expects that users will be guaranteed a shower with hot water now and that fog above its ice rinks during warmer months will have lifted by the end of June.

The improvements are part of $1 million in renovations and upgrades begun this month by owner and operator End 2 End Sports LLC. That follows $1 million in investments since the Davie, Fla., company bought the facility on April 1, 2013.

“We’re on the map,” said General Manager Christopher Woodworth. “Everybody in the hockey world knows of the facility, and they know the shortcomings of the mechanical systems. People have almost been waiting for this to take place.

“We’re in talks with some pretty significant user groups who want to come here and bring an extended amount of business in the spring and summer, which is great for us because it’s less work than trying to create a bunch of little (in-house) programs.”

The new water system was installed this week and was to be operating by week’s end, Woodworth said. The dehumidification system will be delivered June 10 and take three days to install at each of the four rinks, 12 days in total, he said.

The upgrades are necessary because the current water system cannot accommodate increasing use and the dehumidification system is inadequate and has deteriorated over time, Woodworth said.

End 2 End began its management of the complex on Oct. 1, 2012, eight months before the transaction closed. It subsequently has added alternative programming such as a concert and a wine tasting to make the facility a year-round entertainment venue.

“It always had the potential,” Woodworth said. “It was just untapped, more or less. Having insufficient technologies and mechanical systems really hampered the ability to take it to 12 months out of the year.

“If you’re trying to play hockey in the conditions you’d end up in, you can’t see 30 feet in front of you. These improvements are going to allow us to take the facility to 12 months a year.”

The 170,000-square-foot facility houses four National Hockey League-size rinks—200 feet long and 85 feet wide. The main rink has space for 3,000 spectators. Capacity for the three others is 500 each.

“We have so much moisture in here with ice and the cooling of ice,” Woodworth said. “I don’t know if it ever really had sufficient dehumidification, but for the time I can recall over the last 10 years, it hasn’t.”

The fog begins to develop about this time of year, Woodworth said.

“In the summertime, or even in May when we have a couple of 80-degree days, there’s so much moisture in here you almost have a cloud form over the ice,” he said. “You can’t see through the glass—which spectators need to be able to see through—because it has condensation all over it.

“We’ve had a significant amount of summer business that used to be here, and this was a major concern for them and a reason they wanted to go elsewhere.”

Upgrading the dehumidification system is part of the first phase of work. The second phase includes a new system to heat water.

“It’s designed poorly,” Woodworth said of the existing system. “It’s insufficient. We don’t even have enough hot water for when we have a general day of business for everybody to take a warm shower at the end of the day, let alone fill the Zamboni tanks.”

The facility uses about 10,000 gallons of water in a typical day, Woodworth said.

“Without hot water, we can’t make ice appropriately,” he said. “Something as simple as a sufficient amount of hot water affects our business significantly.”

Plans also call for new, insulated ceilings and walls around the four rinks, plus new lighting.

“There will be new efficient lighting everywhere, at the rinks as well as the common areas and the high-speed doors,” said Brian Donald, general manager of SmartWatt Energy Inc. in Perinton, whose company is doing the work.

“The light levels at rink 1 are going to be brought up to the standards required to televise games. We’re definitely thinking ahead.”

The entire project will reduce operating costs by $200,000 per year, Donald said.

“Warm showers and warm water for the ice machines won’t be an issue,” he said. “Dehumidification will be more powerful as well as more efficient.

“We’ll have a management system, which will basically be a brain for the building. That will tie all the different systems together to turn things on and off, speed them up and slow them down. That’s where a lot of the savings will come from.”

Woodworth expects all work to be completed by the end of the year.

“The key is the dehumidification,” he said. “Going into the summer months, we have a lot of business coming in. We have some tournaments here. We have adult hockey programs and some of our other programs.

“Knowing we’re going to have ideal conditions throughout the facility is going to have a huge impact. Everybody in the building now is going to have a good experience.”

Management has not calculated how much money has been lost because of inadequate infrastructure, Woodworth said.

“We just now have one year under our belt,” he said. “To give an actual figure right now, we don’t even know. We’re in the process of analyzing last year’s money that came in and what went out.

“We have a seasonality to the business right now. May, June, July and August are the slow months. Then from September it’s crazy-busy. We’re open till 2 a.m. some nights just with hockey going on.”

The facility’s electric bill is as much as $40,000 per month, Woodworth said.

“That will cut down significantly when we get the new technology,” he said.

“We have a Zamboni room that can access two rinks. We have two Zambonis operating at a given time. Something as simple as an overhead door that opens quickly would save us, I think, over $20,000 a year just by having that door go up and down quicker.”

Some 3,000 people showed up this month for the Verge Campus Spring Tour music festival on the main rink.

The Rochester Raiders of the American Indoor Football League signed a two-year agreement this month to play their three home games there. Other events include roller derby, a ball hockey league and roller hockey leagues, Woodworth said.

A dog show is scheduled for August and a Maryland performance-improvement firm booked the facility for a mid-August sales training event, he said.

“You have two types of business,” Woodworth said. “It’s our internal and our programming, and then it’s user groups renting the facility.

“The improvements are hopefully going to bring these large groups here in the spring and summer for eight- to 10-week events. Then we can schedule around them with our internal programs.”

Retail tenants include Bill Gray’s restaurant, tap room and snack bar, Abbott’s Frozen Custard, City Brew Coffee, Locker Room Sports Retail Hockey Store, Maksymum Hockey, Athletic Republic, Excelsior Sports Prep and Travel Team USA.

“As an investor in the project, I recognize how well the new management group is doing, said David Christa, CEO of the Christa Cos. in Victor, Ontario County. “The facility is reaching its potential as a multipurpose venue for the area.”

Christa’s company built the facility in 1997. Christa had an ownership stake from 2003 until End 2 End took over.

Revenues in 2013 were up 40 percent, Christa said.

“The new management has brought many new tenants and advertisers to the facility, as well as exciting events … with a lot of new ideas to follow,” he said.

The facility has at least 30 tournaments a year, with as many as 6,000 people coming to play or watch, Woodworth said.

“Our business now has evolved to a higher level,” he said. “We know our foot traffic is higher than that. We say 1.6 million (in foot traffic), just because we can look at other variables like revenue, not only for us but from some of the tenants in the facility.”

5/30/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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