Steve Donner Responds to Recent Headlines

by Jacob Johnson

This letter is in response to the Notice of Lease Termination letter dated Friday, May 12, 2023, but not delivered to our office until Tuesday, May 16, 2023.   I am disappointed in the position the Chemung County IDA (CCIDA) has taken regarding the lease, and we wholeheartedly dispute the termination and the basis outlined in the letter. 

We strongly believe the CCIDA has major issues and landlord liability involving long-term improper maintenance of First Arena as well as not providing a facility capable of functioning on an efficient and profitable basis.  Mammoth Sports and Entertainment (MSE) entered the lease in good faith believing the CCIDA would be working together with them to renovate a closed arena and build a long-term business plan for the success of the arena.

In response to the items cited in the termination letter we believe the CCIDA is either ignoring or not acknowledging some major issues from their actions or lack thereof:


Although both parties negotiated a lease in general good faith, the contract took so long for the CCIDA to approve, the result negated any opportunity for the arena to drive appropriate revenue in year one and prevented MSE from purchasing a hockey franchise in time for the 2021-22 season. MSE made every effort to get pro hockey in place, but the FPHL season had already started, and the league put the franchise off until the following season.  This was discovered within 60 days of the lease being signed and approved.  In and upon itself, this issue ensured that MSE would suffer large operating losses in the first twelve months.  The arena could not generate enough revenue without a major tenant to break even or make a profit.


The Arena had been closed for more than 7 months when MSE took control of the arena operations.  There was a well-documented dispute between the CCIDA and the former operator of the arena.  The arena was abruptly closed and was not shut down properly.  The arena sat closed for a long period of time without proper monitoring of HVAC or of any equipment inside the arena.  Large piles of garbage were left everywhere in the arena.  We loaded three (3) 30-foot dumpsters of garbage cleaning the arena up. No proper inspection for damage to the arena or inventory of arena property was done by the CCIDA prior to turning over the arena to MSE. The arena was completely inoperable to host any events when we first took over the facility. 

 The list below includes much of what we encountered upon taking over the arena:

-Outdoor message board inoperable

-Center hung Video Scoreboard inoperable

-The Main arena sound system operated at 30% of capacity

-Main floor restaurant kitchen inoperable

-Main level restaurant floor was cracked and deteriorated and needed replacement

-Suite Level Kitchen was trashed and inoperable

-Suite level restaurant floor needed replacement

-Hood fan in Suite kitchen inoperable

-All refrigerators, coolers and freezers not operable

-Six-Inch-wide drain in Suite kitchen was filled solid with grease (50 feet long).  The drain had to be taken

down on a lift in four-foot sections and taken off-site for cleaning then re-assembled using lifts.

-Beer coolers in bars not operable

-Had to replace over 160 light fixtures and ballasts

-All bathrooms in the arena needed repair and were not fully functioning

-No ticketing system 

-No office phone system

-Internet was old and not functioning correctly; Internet shut down constantly during events due to overload; Had to be replaced costing the operation thousands of dollars

-Rec Rink Sound system destroyed

-No working Rec Rink Scoreboards

-Dehumidifier in Rec Not working/still not replaced

-Only 2 of 12 Roof Top HVAC systems were working; most still not functioning properly

-Locker showers had to be replaced

-Entire arena needed painting.  Most of the arena has now been painted

-Outside arena doors were in bad shape and many still need repair

-Countless ceiling tiles were stained or damaged

-Flat roof in need of replacement. constant leaks

-Major damage to main arena hockey boards

-Mold in multiple areas of the Rec Rink.  MSE removed the mold at a cost savings of up to $70,000 the county had budgeted to pay

-Holes in walls throughout the arena and pulled-out wires and pipes.

The items above represent major repairs and renovations and not typical day-to-day maintenance.


It became known to MSE 60 days into operating the arena that the former tenant was grossly negligent in arena maintenance and took numerous items necessary to host events at the arena out of the arena when he was evicted.  This includes but is not limited to the basketball floor, shot clocks, scoreboard parts, manuals,  ice ramp, ice edger, Zamboni parts, ice-making equipment, tables, hoses, ladders, and chairs. The list is large. 

In addition to the items taken from the arena there was substantial damage done to the arena in the kitchens, bathrooms, and concession stands all over the building.  We made the CCIDA board aware of missing items and damage throughout the building and it was discussed at more than one IDA meeting and the CCIDA decided to take no action.  This has further hurt our ability to operate the arena and increased costs for MSE.


A  major set of issues relating directly to the massive energy costs at the Arena have to do with the condition of the HVAC equipment and the lack of a functioning Dehumidifier in the Rec Rink.  Our lease has the responsibility of HVAC repair by the CCIDA.  We are a year and a half into the lease and there has been no replacement of the Dehumidifier in the Rec Rink. 

The lack of a Dehumidifier in the Rec Rink causes major humidity issues and damages pipes,

scoreboards, sound systems, lighting and literally everything in the arena.  The HVAC system in the Rec Rink is tied into the main system and so the system has to pump warm air and cold air into the Rec Rink and Main Arena at the same time. 

We have been made aware of an independent analysis that was done on the arena system by Siemens Energy and reported to the CCIDA.  The report showed that the system is completely out of control with parts of the system operating against each other.  There are a large number of sensors that are not functioning that would help regulate the HVAC system.  It is the CCIDA’s responsibility in the lease to properly fix the HVAC systems.  These have not been fixed.  There is currently no proper way to operate the Arena system efficiently.  This has directly led to massive energy bills.


MSE has had a concern from the beginning of the lease about the CCIDA Boards’ lack of confidentiality relating to MSE operations, and finances.  There have been multiple leaks of MSE confidential information and correspondence actually copied and shown to me by sponsors.  There have been social media leaks copying information online regarding MSE business. This is unethical, unprofessional, and a tremendous breach of trust.  It has led to caution and hesitance on behalf of MSE to communicate reports and financial information.  This has further hurt our ability to conduct our business properly. One massive direct example of this lack of confidentiality is the press receiving a copy of the notice of lease termination prior to it being delivered to MSE this week.


CCIDA was respectfully informed that MSE was in final negotiations to add an additional business partner bringing both enthusiasm and significant capital to the organization arena project. The timing of this was disclosed well in advance and the CCIDA rushed to publicly announce this Notice of Termination which has now directly blocked the interest and advancement of this investment. The issues and items above have caused major interruptions and challenges to MSE in its attempt to build a successful business model in operating the arena.  Despite the setbacks, condition of the arena, lack of response from the CCIDA on proper maintenance and repair of key arena systems, MSE has brought pro hockey, college hockey, pro lacrosse and 45 other diverse events to the arena in the first full

season of operation.  Due to the issues above, MSE is seeking a major rent and costs abatement to be mutually negotiated as a remedy to support the losses we have incurred.

The CCIDA has shown a history of inconsistent decisions that have had negative effects on the condition and operation of the Arena.  Due to this, we request a mutually agreeable mediator be named to assess the claims of both parties and help settle the disputes.


Mammoth Sports and Entertainment, LLC