The United States Hockey League’s Muskegon Lumberjacks have been in a season of transition. With new Ownership announced in June of 2013, they are nine months into a transition that can take up to twenty four months to see completed.
With new Ownership came a new Management, Coaching and Scouting staff. Along with personnel the transition has come with assuming the management contract of L.C. Walker Arena, and what some consider a management contract that makes it hard for the organization to create financial stability for the arena.
Yesterday, the Muskegon City Commission is prepared to ease some of the financial burden of operating L.C. Walker Arena to ensure that hockey remains in downtown Muskegon.
City Commissioners offered up to $15,000 a month from the city to cover the ever increasing utility costs of operating the arena. This could amount to $180,000.00 per year in addition to the $235,000.00 the arena management agreement calls for in subsidy.
If the total received amounts to $415,000.00 it is still a considerable savings over the roughly $800,000.00 operational expense that the city would pay to operate the arena itself.
City officials believe that the County should also be contributing toward supporting the arena financially as the County receives benefit of the arena’s location in Muskegon and is a large part of the convention and tourism business for the area.
Over the next year, City and County officials will work toward a new management agreement with the Lumberjacks that should result in continued growth and increased stability for the team and the arena.
Multiple sources have reported that the proposed new agreement could be for a twenty year term. A twenty year term is proposed exhibits a commitment from the team to stay in Muskegon for a very long time.
While some residents may complain about subsidizing the arena to ensure the team remains viable, local government officials understand that the Lumberjacks economic impact on the City and County is substantial.
Some have suggested that the team and arena easily account for a Five Million Dollar impact on the area annually. Without that economic impact many businesses would struggle, and the Down Town area of Muskegon would likely become a “ghost town”.
Progress takes groups of people working together toward a common goal. Progress is also about sacrifice. While nothing is ever perfect in government or sports, both sides appear to be working together to ensure that the people within Muskegon and the surrounding communities will not be the ones sacrificed by doubt surrounding eithers commitment to growth in the future.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher