Broken Ice in Billtown
WILLIAMSPORT — Work started this week in Williamsport to remove an outdoor ice rink.
A pro-hockey team, the Williamsport Outlaws folded and left town owing the city and others thousands and thousands of dollars.
Crews hope to have the ice rink at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport gone by the end of the month.
Only then can the city start assessing the damage the outdoor rink has done to the field.
The mayor said he still plans to take the hockey team and a non-profit organization to court over unpaid bills totalling in the tens-of-thousands of dollars.
The hockey season is long over for the Outlaws, the pro team that folded and left town in January without paying its utility bills to the city.
“The bitter part is they reneged, didn’t pay their bills. And i don’t care if it’s Outlaws or non-profit they pay,” said Williamsport Mayor Gabe Campana.
Last summer, Mayor Gabe Campana announced the outdoor hockey experiment at the baseball stadium which is home to the minor league Williamsport Crosscutters.
Campana said he had high hopes the team and a public skating rink run by the non-profit Syracuse Junior Hockey Club would build interest in having an indoor ice rink.
Now the city is left holding the bag for more than $40,000 in unpaid utility bills.
“This group did not pay its bills. We’ll do what we can to recoup those dollars,” said Campana.
So the city plans to sue the Outlaws and the non-profit but only after seeing how much it will cost to repair the field where much of the rink still sits.
“It was an outdoor rink they took a chance. And now we’re losing some money over it I guess,” said Scott Robinson who owns Park Pizza located next to Bowman Field.
The mayor, who pushed for the outdoor rink and the Outlaws team despite serious doubts from community members said Williamsport’s not the first city that’s been taken by a business or team.
“It was good intentions, anybody who knows me, my heart lives for this city,” said Campana.
The city received $20,000 in advance from the team and non-profit to use toward repairs to Bowman Field once the rink is removed.
If the city is unsuccessful in suing for the money the team owes, a budget surplus will pay for it said Campana.
In addition to what the team and non-profit owes the city, the rink rental company said it was never paid leaving it owed more than 100-thousand dollars not to mention other vendors the club did business with.
The owner of the Williamsport Outlaws provided the following statement to Newswatch 16:
I lost an incredible amount of money but tried my very best to remain
operational as long as possible so as to honor our sponsors etc.
However, near the very end of the season I learned of utility bills
and other obligations that were not paid by the nonprofit organization
and further that it had no intention to do so. I very simply could
not pour in hundreds of thousands of dollars more to relieve the
nonprofit of its duties that would only allow the team to continue to
lose money. It was devastating to me personally and has destroyed much
of what I had saved for the future of my two children after their
father died. I continue to search for the words to explain why I
stayed in the game as long as I did despite the harm to my family. The
story that has been spread consists of only a fraction of truth. I
took a leap of faith on Williamsport and lost everything as a result.
The only saving grace is that I met many wonderful people along the
way. – Kristin Rooney